Stronger Warning Signs for Lurking Aneurysms

Study says age, gender and size more critical than hypertension as predictors

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TUESDAY, Sept. 16, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A person's age, gender and body size are better predictors of aortic aneurysm than high blood pressure or fatty deposits, says a Mayo Clinic study in this week's issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study found at least a third of the cases of aortic aneurysm -- a dangerous ballooning of blood vessels near the heart -- are linked to age, gender and body size. High blood pressure and fatty deposits account for only 3 percent of such cases.

The findings counter long-held theories.

"Atherosclerotic plaques and the risk factors that cause them, including hypertension, classically have been considered important potential causes of the expansion of the aorta," study author and cardiologist Dr. Bijoy Khandheria says in a news release.

"Intuitively, it makes sense that high blood pressure would stretch the vessel walls and make them more likely to become enlarged. This study shows that while these risk factors are highly importnat in a host of diseases and conditions, they are bit players when it comes to causing the dilatation of the aorta that can lead to aneurysm," Khandheria says.

He and his colleagues studied 581 people using transesophageal echocardiography (TEE). While similar to conventional external echocardiographic heart imaging, the ultrasound waves in TEE are emitted from a probe that's inserted down the throat.

TEE eliminates visual interference caused by the breastbone and provides much clearer images of the blood vessels surrounding the heart.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about aneurysms.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Sept. 16, 2003

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