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There are a number of tools doctors can use to make an aneurysm diagnosis in a patient. These typically include medical imaging studies of the area of concern, along with a physical examination. As much information as possible is gathered to ensure the validity of a diagnosis and to start developing a treatment plan for addressing the aneurysm. Patients often achieve better outcomes when they see physicians with experience in the diagnosis and treatment of aneurysms.
An aneurysm is a vascular abnormality where the walls of a blood vessel start to bulge. The expansion weakens the walls, putting them at risk of rupture. If the aneurysm ruptures, the patient experiences internal bleeding and may be at risk of complications like stroke, coma, or death, depending on the blood vessel involved. Some people, including smokers and older adults, are more at risk for aneurysms and thus may be regularly screened.
Depending on the site of an aneurysm, symptoms may vary. Sometimes patients develop signs like a pulsing sensation or headaches. In other cases, the problem may not create any notable symptoms until it ruptures. If a doctor suspects a patient has an aneurysm or is at risk for one, medical imaging studies to examine the area are often recommended. X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can all be helpful in the process of aneurysm diagnosis. Another option is angiography, where a tracer dye is injected into the blood vessels and tracked as it moves through the body. In aneurysm diagnosis, the angiography will highlight the anomaly in the patient's vessels.
Ultrasound examination can also be useful in aneurysm diagnosis. One advantage of ultrasound is that it is very fast, allowing a doctor to quickly assess a patient to see if immediate action is needed. For a suspected cerebral aneurysm, a doctor may also request a sample of cerebrospinal fluid to examine for signs of blood or other abnormalities. Physical palpation can sometimes reveal an aneurysm, as can listening with a stethoscope to internal sounds.
Once an aneurysm diagnosis has been delivered, the doctor can discuss the implications with the patient. The size and location of the aneurysm are important considerations when deciding how to treat it. Some cases may simply need to be monitored for signs of further developments, while others may require an immediate surgical repair before the enlarged vessel has an opportunity to rupture and endanger the health and long term well being of the patient.