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Popliteal Aneurysm

A popliteal aneurysm is bulging and weakness in the wall of the popliteal artery, which supplies blood to the knee joint, thigh and calf.

condition

Definition

Popliteal AneurysmA popliteal aneurysm is bulging and weakness in the wall of the popliteal artery, which supplies blood to the knee joint, thigh and calf. A popliteal aneurysm can burst, which may cause life-threatening uncontrolled bleeding. The aneurysm may also cause a blood clot, potentially causing amputation of the affected leg.

Causes

The exact cause of popliteal aneurysms is not known, though atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of fatty substances, plaque and other elements) is believed to play a key role. Trauma to the artery may also cause a popliteal aneurysm.

Risk

  • Popliteal AneurysmHigh cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Bacterial infection
  • Blood-vessel reconstruction occurring in one or both of the legs

Symptoms

Many popliteal aneurysms have no symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain behind the knee
  • An edema (collection of watery fluid) in the lower leg
  • Foot pain
  • Ulcers on the skin of the feet that don't heal
diagnosis

Diagnosis

  • Ultrasound Imaging: Sound waves are used to measure blood flow in the aortic artery and determine whether there is an aneurysm.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan: X-ray views of the aortic artery are taken to determine if there are any aneurysms.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Radio waves and magnetic fields are used to show areas where an aneurysm may be present.
  • Angiography: A dye is inserted into the arteries through a catheter, then an X-ray is taken to show how blood flows through the arteries and whether any aneurysms are present. UVA's angiography/interventional radiology suites are equipped with technology that allows for 3-D images of aneurysms to help determine the best plan of treatment.
treatment

Treatment

Surgery is generally required. A surgeon will typically create a bypass around the area of the artery where the aneurysm is located. Carefully controlling high blood pressure — with medication, if necessary — is also an important part of treatment.

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