An aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel that is caused by an underlying weakness or disease of the vessel. The three iliac arteries are located in the area of the abdomen and pelvis. When an aneurysm occurs in one of the three ileac arteries, it is referred to as an ileac aneurysm.
The ileac arteries are branches of the aortic artery. The aorta is the largest artery in the human body and stretches from the heart to the abdominal area. From there, it branches out to two arteries, known as the common iliac arteries; one goes to the left of the body and the other goes to the right. The common iliac artery then branches into the external and internal iliac arteries, which are also on both sides of the body and branch down to the leg.
It is not known what causes aneurysms. They are sometimes congenital, or can possibly result from a flaw in the wall of an artery. High blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol, are thought to possibly contribute to aneurysms because both can cause damage to arteries.
In some locations where the artery is closer to the skin, there can be visible symptoms of an aneurysm, such as bulging of the skin. Often, there are no symptoms when an aneurysm is present, especially in the case of an iliac aneurysm because the iliac arteries are deeper within the body. Many iliac aneurysms go undetected as a result of this.
The greatest danger of an undetected iliac aneurysm is that it will burst. When this happens, the fatality rate is high, because the amount of blood lost is large and it happens quickly. Other symptoms of a burst aneurysm can be a light-headed feeling, lowered blood pressure, and an increased heartbeat. It is hard to repair once it is burst since it is harder to access.
A dissected aneurysm is the most dangerous type of iliac aneurysm. This type of aneurysm is caused when one of the layers of the blood vessels, but not all, is torn or split. When this happens, there is usually a great amount of pain that can subside quickly, and some people may mistake it for a temporary cramp of some kind and ignore it. The blood flows normally after the tear, but the artery wall is severely weakened, putting the person at great risk.
The diagnostic procedures used for an iliac aneurysm include an ultrasound or CT scan. If one is found, surgery is usually the recommended treatment. Stenting, the use of small stents surgically implanted to reinforce the artery wall, is usually the preferred method. Often an iliac aneurysm is detected as part of another procedure or test being performed.