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Peripheral Aneurysms

Peripheral aneurysms, a weak area of a blood vessel that expands or bulges, affect the other arteries and not the aorta. Most peripheral aneurysms occur in the popliteal artery, which runs down the back of the lower thigh and knee.

Causes

Peripheral aneurysms may be caused by infection or injury in unusual circumstances, but the actual cause of most peripheral aneurysms is not known with certainty. Researchers believe that atherosclerosis may be associated with many peripheral aneurysms. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries and slows the amount of blood flowing through the arteries.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of getting peripheral aneurysms include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • A family history of heart or vascular disease

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of peripheral aneurysms may include:

  • A pulsating lump that can be felt
  • Leg or arm pain or cramping with exercise
  • Leg or arm pain at rest
  • Painful sores or ulcerations involving toes or fingers
  • Radiating pain or numbness in leg or arm, which is caused by a nerve compression
  • Gangrene or tissue death

Diagnosis

To determine if someone has peripheral aneurysm, a health care provider will ask questions about general health, medical history and symptoms. Then they will perform a physical exam. If your health care provider suspects a peripheral aneurysm, further diagnostic testing will be recommended.

Treatments Offered at the Center for Vascular and Endovascular Surgery

Treatment of a peripheral aneurysm depends on the location of the aneurysm, the size of the aneurysm, symptoms, and whether or not the aneurysm is completely blocked by clots. In the situation that a popliteal aneurysm is blocked but there are no symptoms, surgery may not be performed. Instead, a physician may recommend the following:

  • Control risk factors for atherosclerosis
  • Walk regularly to keep blood flowing in leg arteries
  • Do not cross legs or squat
  • Practice foot care by cleaning feet regularly and watching for sores that don't heal (a sign of poor circulation)

If a peripheral aneurysm does require surgical treatment, the following procedures are offered depending on a patient’s diagnosis:

  • Open Aneurysm Repair. This surgical procedure to repair a peripheral aneurysm involves the surgeon creating a detour around a narrowed or blocked section of the artery. To create this bypass, a vascular surgeon can use a vein or sometimes a tube made from man-made materials can be used as an alternative. The surgeon attaches the bypass above and below the blocked area, producing a new path for blood to flow to the intestines.
  • Endovascular Aneurysm Repair (EVAR). Depending on where the aneurysm is located and how complex it is, an endovascular aneurysm repair may be done. his procedure is a minimally invasive approach and involves using a stent for the repair of the aneurysm.

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing an aneurysm because the cause is not known. However, you can reduce some of your risk factors by following these recommendations:

  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Begin a safe exercise program with the advice of your doctor.
  • Seek treatment for high blood pressure, syphilis and other infections.
  • If you have Marfan syndrome, see your doctor regularly for monitoring and CT scans.

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Center for Vascular and Endovascular Surgery
St. Elizabeth's Medical Center
736 Cambridge Street
Brighton, MA 02135
617-779-6504

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