Peripheral aneurysms commonly occur in the popliteal artery but may also occur in the femoral or carotid artery.
Peripheral aneurysms develop in arteries other than the aorta (the largest artery in your body). Peripheral aneurysms most commonly develop in the popliteal artery, which runs down the lower part of your thigh and knee. Though not as common, peripheral aneurysms can also develop in the:
- Femoral artery (located in the groin)
- Carotid artery (located in the neck)
- Arteries in the arms
- Arteries supplying blood to the kidneys or bowel (a visceral aneurysm)
Peripheral aneurysms are not as likely to rupture as aortic aneurysms. More often, blood clots develop that may block blood flow to your arms, legs or brain.
Causes of a peripheral aneurysm
The specific cause of a peripheral aneurysm is not clear; injury, infection and aging can be factors. Researchers believe that atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) plays an important role. Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up on the artery walls, narrowing them and slowing blood flow. Risk factors that contribute to atherosclerosis include:
- Family history of heart or vascular disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Many of these risk factors can be reduced or eliminated by changing your lifestyle.
If a peripheral aneurysm is found in one leg, you are at greater risk of having one in the other leg. Peripheral aneurysm also increases your risk of aortic aneurysm.
Symptoms of a peripheral aneurysm
Most people do not feel any symptoms with a peripheral aneurysm, especially if it is small. The warning signs that you may have an aneurysm depend on where it is and its size. Symptoms may include:
- A throbbing lump you can feel in your neck, leg, arm or groin
- Claudication (cramping in the legs with exercise)
- Leg or arm pain even at rest
- Sores on your fingers or toes that will not heal
- Numbness or pain that radiates in your leg or arm
- Gangrene (tissue death)
Why choose Ohio State for peripheral aneurysm treatment?
The vascular surgeons at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center have extensive experience with traditional open repair of aneurysms, including repair of complex cases. They are also expert at minimally invasive repairs, and have experience in the use of all of the available stent graft technologies available to treat a wide variety of aneurysms. Ohio State's participation in national clinical trials helps direct the development of the next generation of stent grafts for the treatment of aneurysms.
How Ohio State diagnoses peripheral aneurysm
Tests your physician can use to confirm whether you have an aneurysm include:
- CT scan (computed tomography scan, also called CAT scan) – An imaging procedure that uses X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional, detailed images of the body, including bones, muscles, fat and organs
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – A noninvasive, sophisticated imaging procedure that uses large magnets and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures inside the body
- Ultrasound – A test that uses high-frequency sound waves to evaluate blood flow in a vessel
How Ohio State treats peripheral aneurysm
A peripheral aneurysm requires surgical repair because of the risk of a sudden blockage or a dislodged clot obstructing blood flow. If the aneurysm is small and you have no symptoms, your physician will monitor its size to determine when surgery is needed.
There are generally two types of aneurysm repair surgeries:
- Endovascular repair makes use of a catheter that guides a stent graft through small incisions in the groin. The graft is inserted into the aneurysm and seals the aneurysm from within.
- Open surgical repair of a peripheral aneurysm may be recommended if the aneurysm anatomy does not allow for endovascular repair. In this procedure, the damaged area is removed and replaced with a graft (tube).
If a blood clot is blocking the aneurysm, thrombolytic therapy (the use of drugs to dissolve or break up blood clots) may be used before surgery.