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An aneurysm is a localized, blood-filled dilation (balloon-like bulge) of a blood vessel that is caused by disease or weakening of the vessel wall.
A vascular surgeon treats aneurysms in many areas of the body. The abdominal aorta (the portion of the aorta that is in your abdominal cavity) is a very common place for an aneurysms. The iliac arteries (the upper-most artery in your leg, which reaches into your pelvis) and the popliteal arteries (the artery behind your knee) also are common locations for an aneurysm.
Rupture and blood clotting are the risks involved with aneurysms. As the size of an aneurysm increases, there is an increased risk of rupture, which can result in severe hemorrhage or other complications including sudden death. Rupture also leads to a drop in blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and lightheadedness. The risk of death is high, except sometimes for a rupture in the extremities. Blood clots from popliteal artery aneurysms can travel downstream and suffocate tissue.
Aneurysms are treated by either endovascular techniques or open surgery techniques. Endovascular or minimally invasive techniques have been developed for many types of aneurysms. Endovascular techniques allow covered metallic stent grafts to be inserted through the arteries of the leg and deployed across the aneurysm. Open techniques include exclusion and excision. Exclusion of an aneurysm means tightly tying suture thread around the artery both proximally and distally to the aneurysm, to cut off blood flow through the aneurysm. If the aneurysm is infected or mycotic, it may then be excised (cut out and removed from the body). If uninfected, the aneurysm is often left in place. After exclusion or excision, a bypass graft can be placed, to ensure blood supply to the affected area. For some aneurysm repairs in the abdomen, where there is adequate collateral blood supply, bypass grafts are not needed.