An aneurysm is an enlarged portion of a blood vessel. It is important to diagnose an aneurysm, because aneurysms may become larger over time, resulting in an increased risk of rupture, which can be dangerous. To diagnose an aneurysm, your doctor will first ask you many questions including whether another member of your family has had an aneurysm. Then, he or she will perform a complete exam, including listening to your heart, checking your blood pressure, listening to the arteries in your neck, and feeling your abdomen for a mass.
If your doctor suspects that you have an aneurysm in your aorta, an ultrasound test may be performed to visualize it. This is a painless test that can accurately pinpoint and measure an aneurysm. If an aneurysm in the chest is suspected, a CT scan may be recommended to measure it more closely.
If your doctor is concerned that you have a cerebral aneurysm in the brain, it is possible that a CT scan or an invasive test called an angiogram will be recommended. During this procedure, dye is injected into an artery in the arm or leg and travels to the brain where any abnormality can be detected by imaging. MRI can also be useful in the assessment of the aorta or blood vessels in the brain.
What Are the Treatments for an Aneurysm?
The only way to get rid of an aneurysm is to have it repaired -- often a risky procedure, but highly effective when successful. Sometimes, however, surgery is impossible, or it may pose more danger than the aneurysm. Careful monitoring and drug therapy may then be the best course.
Conventional Medicine for an Aneurysm
Your doctor will probably determine the size, type, and location of an aneurysm using any of various imaging techniques. This information will help determine the best course of treatment.
For inoperable aneurysms, you may be prescribed drugs that lower your blood pressure or reduce the force of your heart's contractions, thereby minimizing the risk of a rupture. But even for an operable aneurysm, your doctor may first try drug therapy and advise a wait-and-see approach, with periodic testing to track the aneurysm's growth.
You may need surgery if your doctor finds that the aneurysm has become dangerously enlarged. A surgeon can treat an aneurysm by inserting a clip that cuts off blood flow to the affected area. An aneurysm may also be removed and the section of artery replaced with a synthetic graft.
How Can I Prevent an Aneurysm?
Know if you are at risk for an aneurysm and take appropriate steps to keep one from forming. If you have a family history of stroke or heart disease, make changes in your diet and lifestyle to improve your overall health.
Exercise regularly, watch what you eat, and if you smoke, stop. The most important thing you can do to prevent aneurysms is to control your blood pressure.