Heart & Cardiac Screenings
An aneurysm is an excessive localized enlargement of an artery. The heart pumps oxygenated blood through numerous arteries that are connected to veins and capillaries providing nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and cells throughout the body. This circulatory system also removes waste products excreted by cells. By definition, an aneurysm can occur in any artery and any aneurysm may require medical care. Aneurysm screening is recommended for patients with suspected brain aneurysms or abdominal aortic aneurysms.
Aneurysm screening may be recommended for cardiovascular patients with qualifying risk factors. Age, family history of brain aneurysms, hypertension, high cholesterol, gender, obesity, tobacco use and drug use (cocaine, crack or amphetamines) increase the risk of developing brain aneurysms. Additional risk factors include traumatic head injury, tumor, infection, congenital arterial abnormality, arteriovenous malformation and other medical conditions. Statistics indicate women have a higher risk of brain aneurysms, also.
Brain aneurysms may be fusiform (tubular or cigar shaped) or saccular (rounded or cyst like). Small to medium sized brain aneurysms are usually asymptomatic. A larger aneurysm may create pressure causing dilated pupils, blurred or double vision, pain behind or above eye, localized headache, numbness, weakness or speech impairment. The sudden onset of these symptoms or additional symptoms including nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, dizziness, seizure or unconsciousness may indicate a rupture requiring emergency medical attention.
CTA (Computed Tomography with Angiography) and MRA (Magnetic Resonance Imaging with Angiography) are reliable screening tests for brain aneurysms. They are capable of detecting aneurysms as small as 2 millimeters. Dr. Alonso will recommend screenings or refer you to a neurological specialist, if appropriate.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is an enlarged, swollen or bulging, area occurring in a weakened section of the aorta located in the abdomen. The aorta is the main, and largest, artery in the body. As blood is pumped from the heart to the lower body, it travels through the thoracic aorta (chest area) and continues through the abdominal aorta. Slightly below the navel the abdominal aorta splits into the iliac arteries.
Aging and other risk factors can weaken the aortic lining. Sometimes the pressure from the circulating blood will swell the weakened area, forming an aneurysm. AAAs are commonly located near the iliac divide, where the aorta splits to supply the kidneys, pelvis and legs with blood. Abdominal aortic aneurysms can rupture or cause an embolism. Some patients with an AAA experience no symptoms until the condition becomes a medical emergency. Early detection can prevent serious complications or save your life.
Risk factors include hypertension, high cholesterol, emphysema, obesity, family history, tobacco use, gender (males have a higher risk) and age (patients over 60 have a higher risk). Symptoms can include an abdominal “pulse,” podiatric (foot) problems, or severe abdominal or lower back pain (may indicate impending rupture). Intense pain, nausea or vomiting, weakness, dizziness, rapid pulse, excessive sweating or unconsciousness may indicate a life-threatening medical emergency.
Dr. Alonso will evaluate your risk factors and recommend a screening if warranted. An AAA screening is fast and painless. An ultrasound is used to produce images and measurements of your abdominal aorta. The doctor will discuss the results with you and address any concerns or questions.