What is brain aneurysm?
A brain (cerebral) aneurysm is a bulging, weak area in the wall of an artery that supplies blood to the brain. In most cases, a brain aneurysm causes no symptoms and goes unnoticed. In rare cases, the brain aneurysm ruptures, releasing blood into the skull and causing a stroke.
When a brain aneurysm ruptures, the result is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Depending on the severity of the hemorrhage, brain damage or death may result.
The most common location for brain aneurysms is in the network of blood vessels at the base of the brain called the circle of Willis.
How common is brain aneurysm?
About 1.5 to 5 percent of the general population has or will develop a cerebral aneurysm. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of brain aneurysm?
Most brain aneurysms cause no symptoms and may only be discovered during tests for another, usually unrelated, condition. In other cases, an unruptured aneurysm will cause problems by pressing on areas in the brain. When this happens, the person may suffer from severe headaches, blurred vision, changes in speech, and neck pain, depending on what areas of the brain are affected and how bad the aneurysm is.
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?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
If you have any of the following symptoms or notice them in someone you know, call or other emergency services right away:
- A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
- Neck pain.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Sensitivity to light.
- Fainting or loss of consciousness.
What causes brain aneurysm?
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 increases my risk for brain aneurysm?
Some of these risk factors develop over time; others are present at birth.
Risk factors that develop over time include:
- Older age
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis)
- Drug abuse, particularly the use of cocaine
- Head injury
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Certain blood infections
- Lower estrogen levels after menopause
Risk factors present at birth include:
- Polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disorder that results in fluid-filled sacs in the kidneys and usually increases blood pressure
- Abnormally narrow aorta (coarctation of the aorta), the large blood vessel that delivers oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body
- Cerebral arteriovenous malformation (brain AVM), an abnormal connection between arteries and veins in the brain that interrupts the normal flow of blood between them
- Inherited connective tissue disorders, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, that weaken blood vessels
- Family history of brain aneurysm, particularly a first-degree relative, such as a parent, brother or sister
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?
Medical therapy. Small, unruptured aneurysms that aren’t creating any symptoms may not need treatment unless they grow, trigger symptoms or rupture. It’s very important to have annual check-ups to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol and other medical conditions. Small, unruptured aneurysms require regular imaging examinations to make sure that they have not grown or changed significantly.
Neurosurgery. Depending on a person’s risk factors, open surgery may be recommended. Patients are placed under general anesthesia, an opening is made in the skull, the brain tissue is spread apart, and the aneurysm is surgically exposed. Then the neurosurgeon places a surgical clip around its base. The clip seals off the aneurysm so blood can’t enter. For an uncomplicated surgical clipping procedure, the hospital stay is usually four to six days. Full recovery usually takes several weeks to months.
Neurointerventionalist/neuroradiologist. Depending on the aneurysm’s size, location and shape, it may be treatable from inside the blood vessel. This minimally invasive procedure is similar to the cerebral angiogram. However, in addition to taking pictures, a catheter is directed through the blood vessels into the aneurysm itself. Then, using X-ray guidance, the endovascular surgeon carefully places soft platinum micro-coils into the aneurysm and detaches them. The coils stay within the aneurysm and act as a mechanical barrier to blood flow, thus sealing it off. For an uncomplicated procedure, the hospital stay is usually one to two days. Recovery after the operation usually takes five to seven days. For a complicated surgery or endovascular treatment, or if an aneurysm has bled into the brain, hospitalization may last from one to four weeks, depending on the patient’s medical condition and any complications caused by the hemorrhage.
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:
If you have an unruptured brain aneurysm, you may lower the risk of its rupture by making these lifestyle changes:
- 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.
- Limit caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure.
- Avoid straining. Sudden, forceful and sustained exertion of the type you expend when you lift heavy weights can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure.
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 – Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/brain/tc/brain-aneurysm-topic-overview#1. Accessed June 28, 2017.
Brain aneurysm. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/brain-aneurysm/basics/definition/con-20028457. Accessed June 28, 2017.
What You Should Know About Cerebral Aneurysms. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/AboutStroke/TypesofStroke/HemorrhagicBleeds/What-You-Should-Know-About-Cerebral-Aneurysms_UCM_310103_Article.jsp. Accessed June 28, 2017.
Review Date: June 28, 2017 | Last Modified: June 28, 2017