An aneurysm is a bulging or ballooning in the wall of a blood vessel. It is caused when a portion of the artery wall weakens. Like a balloon, as the aneurysm expands, the artery wall grows progressively thinner, increasing the likelihood that the aneurysm will burst. The most common location an aneurysm can develop is within the aorta, the main artery through which blood flows from the heart to the rest of the body, in the segment of the aorta that runs through the abdomen (called an abdominal aortic aneurysm). The second most common site for an aortic aneurysm can develop is in one of the aortic segments that lies very near the heart (called a thoracic aortic aneurysm).
Aneurysms can develop in other blood vessels:
Popliteal: an aneurysm in the artery behind the knee
Renal: an aneurysm in the kidney; a very rare condition
Many diseases and conditions, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), hypertension, genetic conditions (such as Marfan Syndrome), a connective tissue disorder (such as Ehler-Danlos disorder, polychondritis, scleroderma, osteogenesis imperfecta, polycystic kidney disease, and Turners Syndrome) and injury, can cause the aorta to dilate (widen) or dissect (tear), placing you at increased risk for future life-threatening events. Those with disease of the aorta should be treated by an experienced team of cardiovascular specialists and surgeons. Connective tissue provides support to many structures within the body, such as the heart, blood vessels, eyes, bones, nervous system and lungs, therefore, these patients require a multi-disciplinary approach to their care and long-term follow-up.
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