Peripheral Arterial Aneurysm

A peripheral aneurysm is an enlargement or weakened area in an artery other than your aorta. It mostly affects the arteries in your legs or neck.

Surgeons at the UPMC Division of Vascular Surgery are experts in treating peripheral aneurysms. We use minimally invasive techniques and open surgical repair, depending on the extent of your condition.

And, our team approach to care means a quick and accurate diagnosis and a peripheral aneurysm treatment plan that’s right for you.

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What Is a Peripheral Aneurysm?

An aneurysm is an enlargement or weakened area of an artery. Aneurysms are more common in the aorta — your body’s largest blood vessel — but can occur in any artery.

A peripheral aneurysm is an enlargement or weakened area in an artery other than your aorta, often in your legs or neck.

Peripheral aneurysm types

A mesenteric (splenic, hepatic, or celiac) aneurysm occurs in an artery located in the abdomen, but not in your aorta.

Other types of peripheral aneurysms can affect the:

  • Renal arteries that supply blood to your kidneys.
  • Femoral arteries in your groin.
  • Popliteal arteries that run behind your knees.
  • Carotid arteries in your neck.

Peripheral aneurysm causes and risk factors

Peripheral aneurysms affect men and women.

They are most common in people who have:

  • A family history of aneurysms.
  • Issues with the structure of their blood vessel walls like connective tissue disorders.
  • A history of smoking.
  • Had an aneurysm before.

Women may get splenic aneurysms during pregnancy, and they are more common among women who have had many children.

Peripheral aneurysm complications

While the risk of a rupture (when the aneurysm bursts) is low with peripheral aneurysms, they can lead to blood clots. Blood clots block blood flow or shower downstream.

If a clot blocks blood flow for an extended time, this can lead to tissue or organ loss.

Peripheral aneurysms may also put pressure on surrounding nerves or veins. This can cause pain, numbness, or swelling.

Peripheral Aneurysm Symptoms and Diagnosis

Peripheral aneurysms don't always cause symptoms. Your doctor may diagnose a peripheral aneurysm by chance during an exam or while testing for other health problems.

Symptoms of peripheral aneurysm

Mesenteric (splenic, hepatic, or celiac) aneurysms

  • Symptoms include:
    • Stomach pain
    • Fainting
    • Feeling full soon after eating

Renal aneurysms

  • Symptoms include:
    • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
    • Flank pain

Peripheral aneurysms in the legs

  • Symptoms include:
    • Sudden leg pain
    • Weakness or numbness in your leg
    • Painful or discolored toes

Diagnosing peripheral aneurysms

To diagnose a peripheral aneurysm, your UPMC vascular surgeon will:

  • Ask about your symptoms.
  • Discuss your medical history.
  • Perform a thorough physical exam.

Your surgeon may also use painless imaging tests to confirm a peripheral aneurysm diagnosis, including:

  • Duplex ultrasound scanning — uses ultrasound waves to create images of the aneurysm.
  • Computerized tomographic (CT) scan — uses cross-sectional x-rays and a computer to make detailed 3D pictures of your arteries.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — uses a large magnetic field, radio waves, and computers to make detailed pictures of your arteries.
  • Angiogram — uses an x-ray and contrast dye to show blockages in your blood vessels.

Peripheral Aneurysm Treatment

Treatment of peripheral aneurysms will vary based on:

  • Their location and size.
  • The condition of surrounding blood vessels.
  • Your overall health.

Smaller peripheral aneurysm treatments

For smaller aneurysms, your UPMC vascular surgeon may suggest:

  • Regular follow-up visits to keep a close eye on the aneurysm.
  • Lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.

Larger peripheral aneurysm treatments

For larger aneurysms, your surgeon may suggest:

  • Open surgical repair to remove the aneurysm and replace it with a graft. A graft is a device made of metal and fabric.
  • Endovascular repair, a minimally invasive technique that uses catheters and guidewires to place a stent graft inside the blood vessel.