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A splenic artery aneurysm is a swelling in the splenic artery, the blood vessel responsible for supplying the spleen with freshly oxygenated blood. This condition is relatively rare and is more common in older adults with risk factors like a history of smoking. Rupture of this artery can be fatal in about 50% of cases, as it can cause severe shock due to blood loss. The recommended treatment is usually surgery to remove the aneurysm and make sure the spleen has a healthy blood supply.
Patients with a splenic artery aneurysm develop a weakening in the walls of this blood vessel that causes it to bulge. If it bulges far enough, it can tear apart, releasing blood into the abdomen and depriving the spleen of oxygen and nutrients. Symptoms of this condition can include abdominal pain and cramping, along with variations in blood pressure. The artery can be visualized on medical imaging studies and with the use of tools like arteriograms, where the blood supply to a given area of the body is tracked with a tracer dye and camera.
Pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester, can be at risk for this condition, and it comes with a high risk of maternal and fetal mortality. People with high blood pressure and smokers are also at increased risk. In other patients, there are no clear risk factors, and this can make the aneurysm harder to diagnose in a timely fashion, as a doctor may not think the patient is at risk for a splenic artery aneurysm.
The size of the aneurysm is an important factor in determining the most appropriate treatment option. If the swelling is small, a wait and see approach may be advised, as the risks of surgery can outweigh concerns about the aneurysm. For large aneurysms or cases where there are other health concerns about the patient, surgery to clip the aneurysm will be recommended. In this procedure, the surgeon removes the splenic artery aneurysm, conserving as much of the spleen as possible in the process. Other options, such as stenting to preserve the splenic artery, may be considered.
Abdominal aneurysms, involving blood vessels in the abdomen, are often very serious because the largest vessels in the body are in the abdomen, and many supply multiple organs. People with unexplained abdominal pain should seek medical treatment, and a thorough diagnostic workup to learn more about the origins of the pain, as an abdominal aneurysm like a splenic artery aneurysm is one potential cause, and the sooner the problem is caught, the more likely it is there will be a successful treatment outcome.