Peripheral Aneurysms

A peripheral aneurysm is characterized by the weakening or bulging of an artery wall that develops in an artery other than the aorta. Peripheral aneurysms might occur in the:

  • Carotid arteries, which are located within the neck
  • Mesenteric arteries (including the celiac, hepatic and splenic arteries), which supply blood to various organs within the abdomen
  • Renal arteries, which supply blood to the kidneys
  • Femoral arteries, which are located within the groin
  • Popliteal arteries, which are located behind the knees
  • Various arteries located within the arms

Although peripheral aneurysms can develop in any of these arteries, they most commonly affect the arteries within the legs.

Causes of Peripheral Aneurysms

Researchers are still working to determine exactly what causes peripheral aneurysms, but studies suggest that the narrowing and hardening of arteries due to plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) may play a role.

There are numerous risk factors that can increase someone’s chances of developing a peripheral aneurysm, including:

  • Advanced age (most cases affect individuals in their 60s and 70s)
  • Being a man
  • Being overweight
  • Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Having a family history of heart or vascular disease

Symptoms of Peripheral Aneurysms

The majority of patients with peripheral aneurysms don’t experience any noticeable symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they will vary depending on the size of the aneurysm and where it is located.

A peripheral aneurysm in the leg, for example, could cause:

  • Sudden leg pain
  • Numbness or weakness within the leg
  • Toe pain
  • Toe discoloration

Diagnosing Peripheral Aneurysms

If a physician suspects that a patient might have a peripheral aneurysm, the following imaging tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Angiogram
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Ultrasound

Because many peripheral aneurysms don’t produce any noticeable symptoms, they’re often detected during routine physical examinations or when reviewing the results of imaging tests that were ordered for an unrelated reason.

Treatment for Peripheral Aneurysms

Some peripheral aneurysms can be managed by taking medication and making certain lifestyle changes; others will require surgery. When deciding how to treat a peripheral aneurysm, the vascular specialists at Tampa General Hospital will consider various factors, including:

  • The size of the aneurysm
  • Where the aneurysm is located
  • Whether the aneurysm (or a blood clot that has broken off from the aneurysm) is restricting blood flow
  • Whether the patient is experiencing any symptoms