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Jornal Vascular Brasileiro

versão impressa ISSN 1677-5449versão On-line ISSN 1677-7301

J. vasc. bras. vol.8 no.1 Porto Alegre jan./mar. 2009  Epub 20-Mar-2009 



Ruptured internal iliac artery aneurysm: case report



Cristina Toledo AfonsoI; Ricardo Jayme ProcópioII; Túlio Pinho NavarroIII; Gustavo Henrique Dumont KleinsorgeIV; Beatriz Deoti e Silva RodriguesV; Marco Antônio Gonçalves RodriguesVI

IResident, General Surgery, Hospital das Clínicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
IICoordinator, Department of Endovascular Surgery, Hospital das Clínicas, UFMG, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
IIICoordinator, Department of Vascular Surgery, Hospital das Clínicas, UFMG, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
IVResident, Vascular Surgery, Hospital das Clínicas, UFMG, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
VMSc., Surgery, UFMG, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil. Member, Emergency and Proctology Group, Instituto Alfa de Gastroenterologia, Hospital das Clínicas, UFMG, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
VIProfessor, Department of Surgery, Faculdade de Medicina, UFMG, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil





Isolated internal iliac artery aneurysms are rare. They affect 0.1% of the population, and account for 1% of aortoiliac aneurysms. Patients are mostly asymptomatic, yet they can present with abdominal pain, pulsatile mass in the hypogastrium or iliac fossa, or urinary, gastrointestinal or neurological compressive symptoms. Such aneurysms can present as an acute abdomen, especially when ruptured. Early diagnosis of isolated internal iliac artery aneurysms is difficult, as they are more easily detected when larger or ruptured, which significantly increases their morbidity and mortality rates and determines a poor prognosis. Therefore, they are a therapeutic challenge. Surgical ligation has been the most common treatment; however, the endovascular approach has presented good outcomes, even in ruptured aneurysms. A case of ruptured isolated iliac artery aneurysm diagnosed during a laparotomy for acute abdomen is reported.

Keywords: Ruptured aneurysm, iliac artery, acute abdomen.




Isolated internal iliac artery aneurysms are rare, severe and hard to be diagnosed. They affect about 0.1% of the general population and account for approximately 1% of aortoiliac aneurysms.1-3 The common iliac artery is the most frequently affected (85%), followed by the internal iliac artery (10%) and the external iliac artery (1%).4 This type of aneurysm is more frequent in men and elderly individuals (mean 69 years).2-4 Approximately 50% are bilateral aneurysms.5

They are mostly asymptomatic and are frequently ruptured in manifested cases.6 When symptomatic, signs and symptoms depend on size, location and relation with adjacent structures.


Case report

A 67-year old male patients was admitted with sudden abdominal pain, reported in the lumbar region and right iliac fossa, associated with dysuria and constipation for 24 hours. He had preserved general status, hemodynamic stability, oliguria, reduced peristalsis and palpable suprapubic hard mass. The patient is a smoker, hypertensive and was submitted to coronary stent angioplasty 2 years ago.

Laboratory tests showed hemoglobin of 11.3 g/dL and leukocytes of 14,500/mm.3 Abdominal x-ray showed intestinal dilatation with no air-fluid levels and sigmoidoscopy showed signs of mucosal ischemia. Relief urinary catheterization was performed without advancing the catheter. The patient progressed with worsening of pain, increased mass, hypotension and shock. He was sent to the surgical room with suspicion of sigmoid volvulus.

Laparotomy showed extensive hematoma infiltrating through the bladder, retroperitoneum and anterior musculature of the abdominal wall. Proximal aortic control and exploration of the aortoiliac axis were performed. A ruptured right internal iliac artery aneurysm was identified, measuring 5 cm in diameter, with anterior ureter detachment and compression of bladder and rectum, without other aneurysmal formations. The aneurysmal sac was then opened and ligated to its proximal and distal origins (Figures 1 and 2). Red cell concentrate (900 mL) and plasma (600 mL) were transfused. The patient was sent to the intensive care unit, where he progressed with clinical stability. He was discharged to the ward on the sixth postoperative day, and hospital discharge occurred on the ninth postoperative day. He has been under outpatient control for 4 months, is asymptomatic and in good clinical conditions.






Isolated iliac artery aneurysms have diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. The most common etiologic factor is a degenerative process of the vascular wall mainly associated with atherosclerosis.4 Other causes include infection, trauma, iatrogenesis, vasculitis, collagen diseases, and pregnancy. They can be clinically manifested by pulsatile mass, abdominal and/or lumbar-sacral pain, urinary, gastrointestinal or neurological symptoms, in addition to thromboembolic phenomena.6 Pulsatile palpable mass in the iliac fossa or at vaginal and rectal exam is found in 55% of cases.2 Pain can be either acute, due to expansion or rupture, or chronic, due to compression of nerves and viscera.7,8 Compression of ureters and bladder may trigger urinary symptoms (54% of cases).9-11 Intestinal loops can suffer compression, leading to constipation, tenesmus, pain at rectal exam and rectal bleeding.12,13 Deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism may result from compression of the iliac-femoral system.14,15

However, in most cases, such patients are asymptomatic until rupture. Clinically, the classical triad of abdominal aneurysm rupture, comprised of acute and progressive pain, hypotension and pulsatile mass, is present in 38-51% of patients. Rupture can be retroperitoneal or intraperitoneal, but also for rectum, ureter or bladder.16,17 When there is rupture, the mortality rate in emergency surgeries ranges between 50 and 100%, which is significantly higher when compared with the rate of elective surgeries, usually lower than 10%.18 The patient in this case report had intensive pain associated with compressive symptoms of pelvic structures, signaling to ruptured internal iliac artery aneurysm. Pelvic hematoma explains dysuria, oliguria, constipation, distension and signs of intestinal loop impairment.

Diagnosis of isolated aneurysms of the internal iliac artery, due to their deep location in the pelvis, is hardly performed in an early period. They are usually found incidentally during surgeries, periodic examinations, investigations of other conditions or autopsy.

Abdominal and pelvic ultrasound is useful in the diagnosis, screening and follow-up of patients.6 Angiographic tomography has been the gold standard for the diagnosis of such aneurysm.19,20 It is able to determine location, size, tortuosity, aneurysm pathway, relation with adjacent organs, signs of rupture and retroperitoneal hemorrhage.21 Angiographic resonance is an exception method used in patients that cannot receive iodinated contrast medium. Nowadays, angiography is only performed when the other methods are not available.

Iliac aneurysm diameter influences indication of intervention: those with diameters lower than 3 cm can be treated conservatively; intervention is indicated for symptomatic patients and/or for those that had aneurysm in expansion or with diameter higher than 3 cm.22,23

Treatment of isolated internal iliac artery aneurysms is a challenge due to their topography in the pelvis, large size at diagnosis and risks offered by proximity with important adjacent structures. Surgical ligation has been the most widely used method. The endovascular treatment has also been used for iliac aneurysms, including isolated internal iliac aneurysms.

Aneurysm ligation can only be proximal or combined with distal ligation, as in the reported case. Proximal ligation has lower risk of bleeding for being fast. However, risk of rupture may persist due to maintenance of retrograde intra-aneurysmal flow through the artery or collateral distal bleeding, and not solve compressive symptoms.24 For that reason, combined ligation is the treatment of choice for most patients.

Resection is a little used technique due to fibrosis around the aneurysm, with increased risk of hemorrhage or damage to neighboring structures, especially ureter and iliac veins, which are frequently adhered to its wall.6 Therefore, circumferential dissection of iliac arteries should be avoided with the aim of minimizing such complications.25

Use of endovascular surgery has increased because it has advantages, such as enabling access to the femoral artery by percutaneous puncture, in addition to result in lower traumas, hemorrhages, need of blood derivates and hospital stay.26 Moreover, such surgery is not influenced by resection difficulties, such as in obese patients and in hostile abdomen. Some studies compared endovascular and conventional treatment and showed similar results, with good outcomes in ruptured aneurysms.27-30

There is no consensus in the literature about how to proceed in cases of bilateral aneurysms of the internal iliac artery.31,32 However, preservation of at least one artery is recommended by most authors, since sexual impotence, colonic, vesical and pelvic muscle ischemia are common complications associated with bilateral ligation of such arteries. Surgical repair using graft interposition is the most adequate therapeutic modality in such circumstances.25,33



Internal iliac artery aneurysms are rare and, when ruptured, may be associated with acute abdomen. They have high morbidity and mortality rates and prognosis is quite reserved, particularly in cases of rupture. Surgical vessel ligation, in these situations, is the most widely used technique to stop hemorrhage and treat the aneurysm, avoiding extensive dissections and reducing surgical time.



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Cristina Toledo Afonso
Rua Professor Antônio Aleixo, 760/1501, Bairro Lourdes
CEP 30180150 - Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
Tel.: +55 (31) 3337.9836, (31) 9321.9676

Manuscript received August 4, 2008, accepted November 7, 2008.



No conflicts of interest declared concerning the publication of this article.


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