The 3 Types of Aneurysms
According to researchers, an estimated 3.2% of the population will suffer from an aneurysm. These can take years to develop and, if ruptured, are associated with a high mortality rate. Not all episodes are the same, so we can identify several types of aneurysms.
Doctors generally catalog them based on where they were developed. In theory, aneurysms can occur in any artery. In practice, there are some specific ones where most of the cases occur. Today we’ll show you which they are, along with important information about them.
Main types of aneurysms
In simple terms, aneurysms occur when part of the lining of the arteries weakens. This causes it to swell or widen abnormally. Sometimes the area has a tear, causing internal bleeding or a stroke. We highlight the following types.
1. Brain aneurysm
Also known as an intracranial aneurysm, it’s located in the blood vessels of the brain. They’re more common in older adults (over 50 years), smokers, those who suffer from head injuries, alcoholics, or excessive drug users.
When the aneurysm expands, the lining of the blood vessels becomes extremely thin, making it easier for them to rupture. The first thing that happens is the outflow of blood into the space around the brain, which is known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage. This is a type of hemorrhagic stroke.
There’s no way to detect their presence except through imaging tests on the brain, since they usually only cause symptoms with their rupture. Even so, Johns Hopkins Medicine warns of sentinel hemorrhages. These are small leaks of blood that precede the rupture. The following signs can alert these episodes:
- Decreased eye movements accompanied by pain
- Changes in vision
When a subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs, the following manifestations may develop:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stiff neck
- Tension in the head
- Loss of consciousness
- Dilated pupils
- High blood pressure
- Loss of balance
- Lack of coordination with certain basic functions
Aneurysms of this type can be of three forms: berry, fusiform or fungal. In turn, they can be small, medium, or large. In theory, the bigger they are, the more likely there is to be a breakage.
2. Abdominal aortic aneurysm
According to researchers, abdominal aortic aneurysm affects between 5% and 10% of men older than 65. Therefore, it’s more frequent as one ages, with an average of 80% mortality in the event of a tear.
The American Heart Association also lists high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and family history as risk factors. The episode occurs in the lower part of the aorta, which is located at the level of the abdomen. Most of the time they’re asymptomatic, although UChicago Medicine indicates some possible signs:
- Constant pain in the abdomen
- A sensation of pressure in the chest or back
- Discomfort in the groin area
The manifestations are worse in the event of a tear, which is considered a medical emergency due to the low survival rate. Although in some cases it can’t be prevented, playing sports, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and controlling cholesterol and hypertension help for this and other types of aneurysms.
3. Aneurysm of the thoracic aorta
In these cases, the weakening occurs at the level of the aorta between the thorax and the diaphragm. Many of the cases are due to a hardening of the arteries and aging, although some genetic conditions, injuries, and infections can also be triggers.
It’s less common than previous types of aneurysms, but just as deadly. According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, it affects only 6-10 out of every 100,000 people. Symptoms don’t appear until it’s too late. When they do you can develop:
- Pain in the chest or upper back
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cold or clammy skin
- Swelling in the neck
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Elevated heart rate
- A feeling of impending doom
The weakening of the aorta can occur at any level of the chest, including near the heart. Sometimes it can be generated in a midpoint, what specialists call a thoracoabdominal aneurysm. As the aneurysm grows, it can lead to hoarseness, a symptom that precedes months or weeks before a rupture.
Less frequent cases
These three types of aneurysms are the most common, although, as we noted at the beginning, they can appear at any height of the artery, including the following:
- Popliteal: This happens in the artery that runs along the back of the knee. According to the evidence, between 40% and 50% of cases are associated with aneurysms of the abdominal aorta.
- Mesenteric: This occurs in the part of the artery that supplies blood to the intestine. Researchers point out that 70% of cases of this type are asymptomatic.
- Splenic: This is generated in the artery of the spleen, so it’s technically a type of abdominal aneurysm. They’re very rare, but have an equally worrying death rate.
If an aneurysm is detected prematurely, and, depending on its size, it can be treated through surgical or non-surgical intervention. Lifestyle changes and taking some medications can also keep it under control.It might interest you...
- Cosford, P. A., Leng, G. C., & Thomas, J. Screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm. Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2007; (2).
- Jersey, A. M., & Foster, D. M. Cerebral aneurysm. 2018.
- Jiang, J., Ding, X., Su, Q., Zhang, G., Wang, Q., Jian, W., … & Hu, S. (2011). Therapeutic management of superior mesenteric artery aneurysms. Journal of vascular surgery. 2011; 53(6): 1619-1624.
- Martelli, E., Ippoliti, A., Ventoruzzo, G., De Vivo, G., Marchetti, A. A., & Pistolese, G. R. Popliteal artery aneurysm. Int Angiol. 2004; 23: 54-65.