Atrial aneurysms occur in the walls of the heart’s upper chambers, which are called atria. When an atrial aneurysm is present, a sac forms that bulges or balloons out of an atrial wall. A commonly associated term is atrial septal aneurysm, which is an aneurysm that occurs in the wall between the two chambers. Aneurysms often fail to produce any symptoms, despite the fact that their presence constitutes a significant danger. Any symptoms that do appear should not be overlooked.
An aneurysm has the potential to rupture or burst. The result is massive bleeding, which can lead to shock, loss of consciousness, or even death if the victim does not receive immediate treatment. Emergency surgery is usually required if the victim's life is to be saved. Always call 911 immediately if you suspect someone is suffering from a ruptured aneurysm.
Ruptured Aneurysm Symptoms
When an aneurysm ruptures, or bursts open, the victim typically suffers sudden, extreme pain at the site of the aneurysm – in the case of an atrial aneurysm, this would be the chest or heart. Occasionally, an aneurysm may leak blood more slowly rather than burst all at once, in which case the symptoms are less severe.
Some people with an atrial aneurysm experience a pulsing or fluttering sensation of the heart, or heart palpitations. These sensations may increase and become more bothersome over time.
When an atrial aneurysm causes symptoms (and remember, some aneurysms cause no symptoms at all), they may include pain in the chest, upper back, jaw, or arms; trouble swallowing; hoarseness or difficulty speaking; difficulty breathing; coughing, and fainting spells.
Patients who are diagnosed with an atrial septal aneurysm often also have a patent formen ovale (PFO), which is an opening between the upper chambers of the heart. Babies are born with such an opening, but it usually closes within a short time. Patients with PFOs are exceptions to this rule.