Aneurysms are abnormal enlargements of the arteries. They can occur anywhere but affect in particular some arteries in the abdomen. An aneurysm is weaker than the normal artery and therefore is at risk of leaking and rupture, a potentially catastrophic event.
Aneurysms may be found as the cause of pain or other symptoms, or be found incidentally on scans performed for other reasons.
There are some patients who are at particular risk of aneurysms and bleeding from aneurysms. The decision to treat an aneurysm depends on location, size, your health and past medical history and your wishes.
Aneurysms usually do not cause symptoms. When large they can cause pain or pressure on adjacent organs. Usually however they are found incidentally. Even if not causing symptoms, when identified you should be assessed to establish whether treatment is indicated.
What causes an aneurysm?
Aneurysms are related to age, high blood pressure and some rare medical conditions. They are commoner in women. The risk of rupture and major bleeding is increased in women of childbearing age, as aneurysms often increase in size during pregnancy.
How is an aneurysm diagnosed?
Although they can be identified on ultrasound scans, a CT or MRI scan performed with contrast/dye is essential in establishing the risk of rupture and planning treatment.
Do I need treatment?
Not always. Aneurysms which are small and longstanding are unlikely to increase in size or rupture.
How is an aneurysm managed?
Aneurysms in the abdomen are best managed by embolisation, where special soft metal coils are placed inside the aneurysm, or by stenting where a mesh stent is placed across the aneurysm. Both these methods prevent blood flow in the aneurysm leading it to clot. Once clotted the aneurysm does not increase in size and the risk of rupture is reduced.
When you are seen in rooms by the IR specialist you can trust that you will be only offered treatment if it is thought to be your best option.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if I am a candidate?
Initial patient enquiries are welcome. Send us an email or call and we will email a patient information form for you to complete.
Ask your GP to refer you for a consult. Note that consultations without a referral cannot be claimed from medicare.
After listening to your symptoms and taking a medical history we will discuss further investigations or scans needed to establish whether you are a candidate.
What investigations or scans are needed?
This will be discussed at time of consult but may include:
- CT angiogram
- MRI angiogram
How long is the procedure?
The treatment – embolisation or stenting of the aneurysm – usually takes about 2 hours. This of course depends on the location and size of the aneurysm.
Do I need an anesthetic?
Unlike some other treatment options, embolisation is performed under sedation and local anesthetic. A general anesthetic is not required. The procedure is not painful.
How is the procedure performed?
This is a complex and difficult procedure performed by a specialist interventional radiologist – an expert in this area. A small think tube is inserted via the artery in the groin or wrist and under x-ray guidance, is used to enter the abnormal artery. Once in position special coils are placed inside the aneurysm, blocking the blood flow.
How long will I be in the hospital?
You will stay for a few hours until the sedation has worn off. If there are any complicating factors, you may stay overnight. This will be discussed with you during your consult.
What is the recovery period?
You will be able to return to work and other activities in a few days. You should avoid exercise, strenuous activities or heavy lifting for at least a week.