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What is a Ruptured Aneurysm?

By L. Burgoon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An aneurysm is an artery wall that widens or balloons, thereby thinning out the blood vessel. A ruptured aneurysm occurs when the wall breaks apart, causing a hemorrhage. Burst aneurysms most commonly occur in the brain, aorta, and leg, though an aneurysm — and a rupture — can occur anywhere in the body. The fatality rate for a burst aneurysm depends on the aneurysm’s location, extent of the rupture, and how quickly it is treated. There are numerous warning signs of the onset of a burst aneurysm.

Brain, or cerebral aneurysms, typically are congenital and are caused by an abnormal artery wall; high blood pressure, trauma or tumors also may cause brain aneurysms. People with brain aneurysms are at higher risk for a break if they again have high blood pressure, smoke, or abuse alcohol or drugs. The aneurysm’s location in the brain and size also may elevate or decrease the risk.

A ruptured aneurysm in the brain will leak blood into the surrounding tissue. A burst cerebral aneurysm also often causes bleeding between the brain and skull, known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage. This may lead to serious brain damage, paralysis, or death. According to some medical authorities, 40 percent of people with ruptured cerebral aneurysms die within 24 hours, and another 25 percent die from complications within six months of the event.

Aortic aneurysms occur in the main artery leading away from the heart. A burst aneurysm in the aortic artery is a critical medical issue that requires immediate treatment. Delay of treatment means massive blood leakage into the body, causing death within minutes or hours.

About 75 percent of aortic aneurysms and ruptures occur in the abdomen area, while 25% occur in the thoracic area. Risk factors for burst aortic aneurysms include high blood pressure, connective tissue disorders, and previous trauma. Males and the elderly also are more likely to experience aortic aneurysms and ruptures. Less than 40 percent of people survive aortic abdominal aneurysm ruptures, according to medical experts.

A burst aneurysm also may occur in leg arteries, especially behind the knee. Although a burst leg aneurysm can lead to a hemorrhage, this condition is not as serious as cerebral or aortic aneurysm breaks. Survival rate is high when the aneurysm is treated surgically.

Warning signs of an impending burst aneurysm in the brain may include extreme headaches, vomiting, stiff neck, or loss of consciousness. Symptoms of aortic aneurysm rupture include severe, sudden pain in the abdomen, chest and back, shock, and loss of consciousness. Burst aneurysms in other locations may be accompanied by sudden, severe and localized pain, numbness, or loss of circulation.

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Discussion Comments
By EliseP — On May 11, 2011

So basically a ruptured aneurysm is a hemorrhage in the artery walls due to them becoming blocked or expanded?

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