An aneurysm is an abnormal bulging or swelling of a portion of a blood vessel. The aorta, which can develop these abnormal bulges, is the large blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the rest of the body.
The aorta carries oxygen-rich blood to the body, and is therefore called an artery. Because the aorta is an artery, its walls are made of up three layers; a thin inner layer, a muscular middle layer (that gives the vessel its flexibility under pressure from the filling blood), and a fiber-like outer layer that gives the vessel strength to not burst when the heart pumps blood to the body.
Aortic aneurysms occur when a weakness develops in part of the wall of the aorta; three basic types are usually found. If all three layers of the vessel are affected and weakness develops along an extended area of the vessel, the weakened area will appear as a large, bulging region of blood vessel; this is called a fusiform aneurysm. If
weakness develops between the inner and outer layers of the aortic wall, a bulge results as blood from the interior of the vessel is pushed around the damaged region in the wall and collects between these layers. This is called a dissecting aneurysm because one layer is "dissected" or separated from another. If damage occurs to only the middle (muscular) layer of the vessel, a sack-like bulge can form; therefore, this is a saccular aneurysm.
Dominic De BellisM PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,