Brain aneurysm

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at January 22, 2016
StartDiseasesBrain aneurysm

A brain aneurysm, also known as a cerebral aneurysm or intracranial aneurysm (IA), is an abnormal bulge on the wall of an artery in the brain. Brain aneurysms are often revealed when they rupture. Although women are more likely than men to experience aneurysms, they can occur for anyone at any age.

Contents

Definition & Facts

An estimated 6 million people in the United States have an unruptured aneurysm. A ruptured aneurysm will cause bleeding into the brain or the space closely surrounding the brain. A ruptured brain aneurysm can result in a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), which can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke, brain damage and death.

The most common type of aneurysm that accounts for about 90% of all IA is called a saccular cerebral aneurysm. It is also the most common cause of non-traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage. This type of aneurysm is often known as a “berry” aneurysm due to its shape forming at the “Y” segment of arteries known as the arterial bifurcation. Another type of aneurysm is the fusiform aneurysm which rarely ruptures and appears inflamed on all sides of the blood vessel.

Symptoms & Complaints

Aneurysms that have not ruptured are usually asymptomatic. These aneurysms are typically small in size. The larger aneurysms that have not ruptured have been known to place pressure on the brain or nerves stemming out of the brain and may result in various neurological symptoms.

A physician should evaluate any individual experiencing some or all of the following symptoms, regardless of age, immediately:

Typical symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm often begin with an individual experiencing severe headaches. Ruptured brain aneurysms that result in SAH will cause the following symptoms suddenly due to the blood that escaped into the space around the brain:

Causes

The thinning of the arterial walls can be caused by a variety of conditions including high blood pressure and atherosclerosis which is the hardening of the arteries. As blood flows against the thinned portion of the arterial wall, aneurysms can form without notice due to the wear and tear of the artery. The arterial wall gradually becomes thinner from the dilation, causing the weakened wall to swell outward. This type of pressure may cause the aneurysm to rupture and allow blood to escape into the space around the brain.

Certain risk factors for cerebral aneurysms include:

Diagnosis & Tests

Patients that display symptoms of an aneurysm are referred to a neurologist. Fortunately, through evaluation and image screening technology, individuals at high risk of developing a brain aneurysm can be identified easily. Individuals undergo testing utilizing:

Treatment & Therapy

The prognosis for a patient with a ruptured cerebral aneurysm largely depends on the extent and location of the aneurysm, the person’s age, overall health and neurological condition of the patient. Unruptured aneurysms may require no treatment with constant monitoring or consistent follow-up and observation. If the unruptured aneurysm is treated successfully, the recovery period is generally shorter than that following the treatment of a ruptured aneurysm. Ruptured aneurysms may be treated with either endovascular coiling or open surgical aneurysm clipping in order to prevent re-bleeding by sealing off the aneurysm.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

While there are some risk factors that cannot be altered, especially if the aneurysms are associated with family history, lifestyle choices such as healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce the risk of brain aneurysms. Light exercise such as walking 30 minutes a day will also benefit the body. Avoiding smoking and drug use can prevent brain aneurysms.