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Aneurysm

An aneurysm is a swelling in part of an artery caused by damage to, or weakness of, a blood vessel wall. The pressure of blood in the artery causes it to ‘balloon’ out at the weak point. The swelling may be small, spherical and berry-size, which normally occurs near blood vessel branches, or larger and balloon-like. Large aneurysms may also extend along arteries.

Aneurysms may occur anywhere in the body, but they are most common on the largest artery in the body, the aorta, and on the small circle of arteries underneath the base of the brain called the Circle of Willis.

An aneurysm can also occur on the heart wall after a section has been weakened by local loss of blood supply from a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Aneurysms may affect people of any age and both sexes, although they are more common in men, people with high blood pressure and those over 65. Aortic aneurysms tend to run in families. Aneurysms are fatal if they burst.