Aneurysm Causes & Treatments
The word aneurysm refers to a bulge or ‘pocketing’ of the wall or lining of a vessel commonly occurring in the blood vessels at the base of the brain, or within the aorta. When it concerns the heart muscle, it is called a cardiac aneurysm and is usually seen in the left ventricle of the heart.
What Causes the Aneurysm?Seen mainly in the walls of the left ventricle (lower chamber) of the heart, it is thought to occur here as the blood in this area carries the highest amount of pressure forcing the walls to bulge. It can develop very slowly over many years and does not often cause any problems during this time.Another possible cause of a cardiac aneurysm is as a consequence of a heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction. Again it develops slowly due to a rise in pressure.
Signs and SymptomsAs it tends to develop slowly, symptoms may go unnoticed. Often the only way of finding out that it has occurred at all is when other medical conditions present, which are usually very serious such as blood clots causing strokes and blockages in other blood vessels. These blood clots form as the blood in the ventricle does not pump out as it should and can collect and thicken in the bulged area, releasing clots into the system.
Diagnosing an AneurysmWhen a person visits the hospital or doctor with other symptoms, especially with a history of heart problems, they will normally be required to undergo an electrocardiogram, which monitors electrical activity within the heart and shows abnormalities when a cardiac aneurysm is present. It can also appear as a bulge on a chest x-ray, and a more accurate diagnosis will then be made using an echocardiogram, which uses ultrasound to ‘photograph’ the heart and how it functions while it beats.
Treating an AneurysmAs some people live with this type of aneurysm for many years, diagnosis and treatment will not be given. If, however, it has been properly diagnosed, blood thinning agents may be given to help reduce the likelihood of blood thickening and clots forming, along with the use of drugs to correct the irregular rhythm of the heart (seen on the electrocardiogram), and occasionally surgery will be offered. If surgery is indicated, it is often to try and remove the bulge and repair the damaged area and can be quite difficult so will be used as a last option as it carries many risks.
Most people who live with a cardiac aneurysm do so without knowing it. It is far better to reduce the risk of heart attack and keep blood pressure within healthy limits in order to reduce the likelihood of an aneurysm occurring along with all of the possible side-effects and consequences. Lifestyle choices play a very important role in this prevention and careful consideration should be given when participating in highly unhealthy activities such a heavy drinking and smoking. Regular stress should also be kept to a minimum to help keep blood pressure down and avoid the chances of it causing problems within the structures of the heart.