Aneurysm


Aneurysm is an abnormal swelling of the blood vessels, which causes them to become weak over time. With every heart beat there is increased pressure on the wall of the blood vessel which ultimately weakens the arterial wall and produces the risk of arterial rupture. Exact causes of an aneurysm are unclear. It can be caused by a defect in the wall of the artery or build-up of plaque in the arterial wall (known as arteriosclerosis). At times it may be present at birth (known as congenital aneurysm). 

An aneurysm that is small in size may not be threatening; but as it grows in size, it can lead to severe consequences including haemorrhage or sudden death. Although it can occur in any part of the body, the most common areas are:

  • Abdominal and Thoracic Aorta

  • Brain (cerebral aneurysm)

  • Behind the knee (popliteal artery aneurysm)

  • Intestine (mesenteric artery aneurysm)

  • Spleen (splenic artery aneurysm)

The risk of having an aneurysm increases due to factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, drug use (especially cocaine), genetic factors and smoking. Sometimes aneurysms may be caused by pregnancy or a traumatic injury as well. Both men and women are at risk, especially in elderly age group.

You may develop an aneurysm and live with it for several years without facing any symptoms or rupturing, which is what makes them so difficult to detect. Some aneurysms never grow in size, others grow slowly and yet others increase rapidly in size. 

You may experience the symptoms of an aneurysm depending on its location. In the majority of cases, aneurysms occur in the abdominal (stomach) area. If the aneurysm size is large enough, you might be able to feel a throbbing pulse along with swelling. 

You need to be watchful of these common symptoms of aneurysms:

  • Stomach pain /abdominal pain

  • Back pain

  • Throbbing sensation in the affected area

  • Coughing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Difficulty in speaking or loss of voice

  • Difficulty in swallowing

​If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or if your doctor discovers a lump during a routine physical examination, it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention. You can receive multidisciplinary care at the Heart, Lungs and Vascular Service Line of The Aga Khan University Hospital and explore a variety of treatment options.

​Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so makes sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Diagnoses of aneurysms depend on the part of the body in which it is located in. The Aga Khan University Hospital is committed to providing you with high quality facilities to facilitate in an accurate diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Your options for aneurysm diagnosis at the Hospital include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound: During this test, you will be asked to lie on your back while your doctor applies warm gel on your abdominal area. A device called a transducer will be placed on your skin and used to produce an image of your insides. Once the image is produced, a trained technician will examine it to detect a potential aneurysm. 

  • CT (Computerized Tomography) scan: you will be asked to undergo an X-ray exam which will be used to create a 3-dimensional picture of the specified area.

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): You will be asked to lie down inside a tunnel like machine, in which magnets and radio waves will produce images of the specified area. This test is better than a CT scan at detecting a ruptured aneurysm.

  • Regular check-ups: If you’re at high risk for an aneurysm, it is recommended to get regular check-ups, particularly if you are or used to be a smoker and have a family history of aneurysms.​

​Treatment of an aneurysm depends on its size, whether (or how fast) it is growing as well as its location within the body. You can explore the comprehensive clinical care services at the Aga Khan University Hospital and gain access to our medically accredited treatment facilities. 

If the aneurysm in your affected area is small (up to 1.6 inches or 4 centimetres) and there are no other symptoms, your doctor will likely take the approach of observation and waiting. This is because in such a case, the risk of invasive surgery often outweighs the benefits of removing the aneurysm surgically. Your doctor will order an ultrasound scan every six to twelve months and ask you to monitor your symptoms carefully. 

If the aneurysm in your affected area is medium-sized, (up to 2.2 inches or 5.5 centimetres) it is more difficult to weigh the risks and benefits of surgery. Treatment will then depend on a case to case basis and will be left to the discretion of your doctor.

If the aneurysm in your affected area is large in size (bigger than 2.2 inches or 5.5 centimetres) and is rapidly growing, the likelihood of surgery increases. A synthetic tube will be inserted in place of the damaged section of the aorta. This type of surgery is very risky and it may take you several months to recover fully.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

​The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

​The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider. ​​