What Is a Fusiform Aneurysm?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2014
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A fusiform aneurysm is a type of aneurysm characterized by a spindle-like shape when viewed in cross-section. It can be a cause for concern, depending on where in the body it is located, and in some cases emergency surgery may be required to correct it before it ruptures. Rupture of an aneurysm can have fatal consequences; for example, an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) can rupture and cause a patient to bleed to death within minutes.

Aneurysms are swellings which occur in the vascular system. While some dilation of a vein or artery may not be a major issue, if it dilates enough, the tissue becomes weakened. This means that rupture of the blood vessel is possible, which would cause internal bleeding. Aneurysms can also become hiding grounds for clots, which is a definite problem, and they can cause problems with blood pressure. Part of what keeps blood pressure stable is the width of the blood vessels, and when they dilate and stay dilated, the body cannot regulate blood pressure as effectively.

In the case of a fusiform aneurysm, the dilation in the blood vessel looks like a spindle. It is usually a complication of severe atherosclerosis, and is sometimes called an atherosclerotic aneurysm for this reason. Diagnosis is performed with the assistance of medical imaging studies, which may include the use of contrast to clearly highlight the vascular system so that abnormalities can be clearly seen on the study.

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If a fusiform aneurysm is small and not in a dangerous location, a doctor may recommend taking a wait and see approach. The aneurysm will be monitored for signs of changes, and the patient may be advised to take some precautionary steps to avoid exacerbation of the aneurysm. If the aneurysm is large, surgical measures may be recommended to address it before it ruptures. Surgery may also be necessary if the aneurysm is in a delicate location where rupture could become an issue.

Symptoms of a fusiform aneurysm vary. Often, the issue is not identified in the early stages, with problems emerging when the aneurysm is close to rupture and the patient is experiencing symptoms associated with low blood pressure such as dizziness, fainting, and pale skin. The aneurysm may also be identified during medical imaging or routine screening for another medical issue.

Surgery for a fusiform aneurysm is performed by a cardiovascular surgeon who works on the patient while she or he is under general anesthesia. The risks of the procedure vary, depending on the location and size of the aneurysm.

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