The two types of aortic aneurysm are abdominal aortic aneurysm and thoracic aortic aneurysm. Some people have both types.
An aneurysm that occurs in the abdominal portion of the aorta is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Most aortic aneurysms are AAAs.
These aneurysms are found more often now than in the past because of computed tomography (to-MOG-rah-fee) scans, or CT scans, done for other medical problems.
Small AAAs rarely rupture. However, AAAs can grow very large without causing symptoms. Routine checkups and treatment for an AAA can help prevent growth and rupture.
An aneurysm that occurs in the chest portion of the aorta (above the diaphragm, a muscle that helps you breathe) is called a thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA).
TAAs don't always cause symptoms, even when they're large. Only half of all people who have TAAs notice any symptoms. TAAs are found more often now than in the past because of chest CT scans done for other medical problems.
With a common type of TAA, the walls of the aorta weaken and a section close to the heart enlarges. As a result, the valve between the heart and the aorta can't close properly. This allows blood to leak back into the heart.
A less common type of TAA can develop in the upper back, away from the heart. A TAA in this location may result from an injury to the chest, such as from a car crash.
Aneurysms in the arteries of the brain are called cerebral (seh-RE-bral)
aneurysms or brain aneurysms. Brain aneurysms also are called berry aneurysms because they're often the size of a small berry.
Most brain aneurysms cause no symptoms until they become large, begin to leak blood, or rupture (burst). A ruptured brain aneurysm can cause a stroke.
Aneurysms that occur in arteries other than the aorta and the brain arteries are called peripheral (peh-RIF-eh-ral) aneurysms. Common locations for peripheral aneurysms include the popliteal (pop-li-TE-al), femoral (FEM-o-ral), and carotid (ka-ROT-id) arteries.
The popliteal arteries run down the back of the thighs, behind the knees. The femoral arteries are the main arteries in the groin. The carotid arteries are the two main arteries on each side of your neck.
Peripheral aneurysms aren’t as likely to rupture or dissect as aortic aneurysms. However, blood clots can form in peripheral aneurysms. If a blood clot breaks away from the aneurysm, it can block blood flow through the artery.
If a peripheral aneurysm is large, it can press on a nearby nerve or vein and cause pain, numbness, or swelling.
Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Aneurysm, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.
The NHLBI supports a national registry that enrolls patients with genetic conditions related to thoracic aortic aneurysms. The data collected through the GenTAC registry will help doctors and researchers better understand how genes, thoracic aortic aneurysms, and heart disease are linked. To learn more about GenTAC, visit https://gentac.rti.org/Home.aspx.
August 19, 2014
Gary H. Gibbons
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The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.