What is brain aneurysm?
A brain aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain. It often looks like a berry hanging on a stem.
A brain aneurysm can leak or rupture, causing bleeding into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). Most often a ruptured brain aneurysm occurs in the space between the brain and the thin tissues covering the brain. This type of hemorrhagic stroke is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
A ruptured aneurysm quickly becomes life-threatening and requires prompt medical treatment.
Most brain aneurysms, however, don’t rupture, create health problems or cause symptoms. Such aneurysms are often detected during tests for other conditions.
Treatment for an unruptured brain aneurysm may be appropriate in some cases and may prevent a rupture in the future. Talk with your caregiver to ensure you understand the best options for your specific needs.
How common is brain aneurysm?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of brain aneurysm?
A sudden, severe headache is the key symptom of a ruptured aneurysm. This headache is often described as the “worst headache” ever experienced.
Common signs and symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include:
- Sudden, extremely severe headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stiff neck
- Blurred or double vision
- Sensitivity to light
- A drooping eyelid
- Loss of consciousness
- ‘Leaking’ aneurysm
In some cases, an aneurysm may leak a slight amount of blood. This leaking (sentinel bleed) may cause only a:
- Sudden, extremely severe headache
- A more severe rupture often follows leaking.
An unruptured brain aneurysm may produce no symptoms, particularly if it’s small. However, a larger unruptured aneurysm may press on brain tissues and nerves, possibly causing:
- Pain above and behind one eye
- A dilated pupil
- Change in vision or double vision
- Numbness of one side of the face
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Sudden, extremely severe headache
If you’re with someone who complains of a sudden, severe headache or who loses consciousness or has a seizure, call your local emergency number.
Brain aneurysms develop as a result of thinning artery walls. Aneurysms often form at forks or branches in arteries because those sections of the vessel are weaker.
Although aneurysms can appear anywhere in the brain, they are most common in arteries at the base of the brain.
What causes brain aneurysm?
The causes of brain aneurysm are unknown, but a range of factors may increase your risk.
What increases my risk for brain aneurysm?
There are many risk factors for brain aneurysm, such as:
- Family history. People who have a family history of brain aneurysms are more likely to have an aneurysm than those who don’t.
- Previous aneurysm. People who have had a brain aneurysm are more likely to have another.
- Women are more likely to develop a brain aneurysm or to suffer a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
- African Americans are more likely than whites to have a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
- High blood pressure. The risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage is greater in people who have a history of high blood pressure.
- In addition to being a cause of high blood pressure, the use of cigarettes may greatly increase the chances of a brain aneurysm rupturing.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is brain aneurysm diagnosed?
Because unruptured brain aneurysms often do not cause any symptoms, many are discovered in people who are being treated for a different condition.
If your doctor believes that you have a brain aneurysm, you may have the following tests:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan can help identify bleeding in the brain. Sometimes a lumbar puncture may be used if your doctor suspects that you have a ruptured cerebral aneurysm with a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
- Computed tomography angiogram (CTA) scan. CTA is a more precise method of evaluating blood vessels than a standard CT scan. CTA uses a combination of CT scanning, special computer techniques, and contrast material (dye) injected into the blood to produce images of blood vessels.
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). Similar to a CTA, MRA uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to provide pictures of blood vessels inside the body. As with CTA and cerebral angiography, a dye is often used during MRA to make blood vessels show up more clearly.
- Cerebral angiogram. During this X-ray test, a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel in the groin or arm and moved up through the vessel into the brain. A dye is then injected into the cerebral artery. As with the above tests, the dye allows any problems in the artery, including aneurysms, to be seen on the X-ray. Although this test is more invasive and carries more risk than the above tests, it is the best way to locate small (less than 5 mm) brain aneurysms.
How is brain aneurysm treated?
Your doctor will think about several things before deciding the best treatment for you. Things that will determine the type of treatment you receive include your age, size of the aneurysm, any additional risk factors, and your overall health.
Because the risk of a small (less than 10 mm) aneurysm rupturing is low and surgery for a brain aneurysm is often risky, your doctor may want to continue to observe your condition rather than do surgery. Your doctor may suggest ways to keep your blood vessels as healthy as possible, such as managing high blood pressure and not smoking. If your aneurysm is large or causing pain or other symptoms, though, or if you have had a previous ruptured aneurysm, your doctor may recommend surgery.
The following procedures are used to treat both ruptured and unruptured brain aneurysms:
- Endovascular embolization. During this procedure, a small tube is inserted into the affected artery and positioned near the aneurysm. For coil embolization, soft metal coils are then moved through the tube into the aneurysm, filling the aneurysm and making it less likely to rupture. In mesh embolization, mesh is placed in the aneurysm, reducing blood flow to the aneurysm and making it less likely to rupture. These procedures are less invasive than surgery. But they involve risks, including rupture of the aneurysm.
- Surgical clipping. This surgery involves placing a small metal clip around the base of the aneurysm to isolate it from normal blood circulation. This decreases the pressure on the aneurysm and prevents it from rupturing. Whether this surgery can be done depends on the location of the aneurysm, its size, and your general health.
Both of these procedures should be done in a hospital where many procedures like these are done.
Some aneurysms bulge in such a way that the aneurysm has to be cut out and the ends of the blood vessel stitched together, but this is very rare. Sometimes the artery is not long enough to stitch together, and a piece of another artery has to be used.
Aneurysms that have bled are very serious. In many cases, they lead to death or disability. Management includes hospitalization, intensive care to relieve pressure in the brain and maintain breathing and vital functions (such as blood pressure), and treatment to prevent rebleeding.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage brain aneurysm?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with brain aneurysm:
- Don’t smoke or use recreational drugs. If you smoke or use recreational drugs, talk to your doctor about strategies or an appropriate treatment program to help you quit.
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise. Changes in diet and exercise can help lower blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about changes appropriate for you.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Brain aneurysm. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/brain-aneurysm/symptoms-causes/syc-20361483. Accessed December 22, 2017.
Brain Aneurysm - Topic Overview. https://www.webmd.com/brain/tc/brain-aneurysm-topic-overview. Accessed December 22, 2017.
Review Date: December 27, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019