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Aneurysms are bulges that weaken the walls of your aorta, your largest blood vessel. If you have an aneurysm, they’re sometimes treated using a stent-graft. A stent-graft is a special tube that supports the inside wall of your aorta. Stent-grafts reduce pressure on the aneurysm.

An endoleak happens when blood finds a way around the stent graft and into the aneurysm. An endoleak can be life-threatening without treatment. You won't know you have an endoleak unless it's found during one of your checkups. But if it causes your aneurysm to tear, it's an emergency.

At UVA Health's Aortic Center, our experts in aorta care have the tools to diagnose endoleaks and the skills and experience to treat them. UVA has been recognized for our experienced, high-quality heart care, especially in aortic, valve, and bypass surgery.

Endoleak Treatment at UVA Health

How we treat your endoleak depends on the type you have. Endoleaks are classified by how the leak happens. 

Endoleak Types

Endoleaks are classified into five types:

  • Type I: blood comes around a gap in the top or bottom of the stent-graft
  • Type II: pressure in blood vessels branching from the aorta lets blood back into the aneurysm
  • Types III and IV: blood comes through the wall of the stent-graft; this could be from a tear, defect, or misalignment of the stent-graft parts
  • Type V: no clear source for the leak

Type II endoleaks are the most common. They sometimes aren’t very serious. Also, type IV endoleaks sometimes get better on their own. Other types of endoleaks are more serious. They should be treated as soon as they’re found.

Treating Endoleaks

There are a few ways we can stop blood from flowing into the aneurysm. If the stent-graft is damaged, we might need to add new parts to fix it. You also might need surgery to fix the graft. These treatments might involve:

  • Puncturing an aneurysm, then adding coils or glues to close it
  • Delivering blood-clotting medicine through your blood vessels to stop the leak
  • Using special glue-like material to stop the leak
  • Extending the stent-graft
  • Placing special cuffs to seal the ends of the stent-graft
  • Cutting blood vessels off from that area
  • Surgery to remove the stent-graft and reduce the aneurysm

Endoleak Symptoms

You usually won’t feel symptoms with an endoleak. They should be found as part of your regular checkups for aneurysm care.

Diagnosing Endoleaks

Because endoleaks affect around 20% of people with a stent-graft, it’s important to have regular scans and go to your post-surgery appointments. Endloeaks might be found by:

  • Ultrasound
  • CT scans
  • MRI
  • Angiogram