Brain Aneurysm

Last Editorial Review: 1/9/2008

What is a brain aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm is an abnormal widening of an artery or vein in the brain. Brain aneurysms are caused by a weakness in the wall of an artery or vein within the brain.

How does a brain aneurysm occur?

Brain aneurysms may result from a congenital malformation (birth defect) of a blood vessel, high blood pressure which damages the blood vessels, arteriosclerosis (build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries), or head trauma.

Who is at risk for a brain aneurysm?

Brain aneurysms can occur at any age. Although they are more common in adults, they can and do occur in children.

Is there any warning before an aneurysm ruptures?

The onset of bleeding from a ruptured brain aneurysm is usually sudden and without warning.

Sometimes, however, the individual may experience the sudden onset of symptoms such as severe headache, nausea, vision impairment, vomiting, and loss of consciousness before the aneurysm ruptures.

How serious is the rupture of a brain aneurysm?

Very serious.

The rupture of a brain aneurysm is dangerous. It involves bleeding in the brain or in the area surrounding the brain which causes an accumulation of blood, usually clotted, within the skull (intracranial hematoma).

Other complications of a rupture include repeated episodes of bleeding, hydrocephalus (the excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid), and spasm of the blood vessels of the brain.

The presence of one brain aneurysm may also be an indicator of multiple other brain aneurysms.

How is a ruptured brain aneurysm treated?

Emergency treatment for individuals with a ruptured cerebral aneurysm includes restoring deteriorating vital functions such as breathing and reducing pressure within the brain.

Surgery may be performed, usually within the first 3 days to clip the ruptured aneurysm and reduce the risk of repeated episodes of bleeding. Other measures may include bed rest, drug therapy, or blood pressure control and fluids.

In some patients, including those for whom surgery is considered too risky, the aneurysm may be treated by endovascular means (endovascular means within the blood vessel).

What is endovascular treatment for a brain aneurysm?

Endovascular treatment of brain aneurysm is a procedure whereby a catheter (tube) is inserted through the skin into a vessel and guided up to the brain. The catheter is used to deliver a material that travels through the blood vessel to clog or plug the blood vessel (embolize). This specialized catheter procedure, called transcatheter embolization, is a form of interventional radiology.

What is the microcoil treatment?

Metallic coils are among the newer methods for permanent embolization. For instance, the Gugliemi Detachable Coil (GDC) is made specifically to occlude (obstruct or plug) brain aneurysms. Precise placement of the microcoil is crucial. An advantage of the GDC coil is that it is "temporarily permanent." The coil can be repositioned if is it not placed correctly the first time.

Microcatheters are an enabling technology in percutaneous (though- the-skin) embolization, since they allow access to the deep tortuous (winding or twisted) blood vessels of the brain and permit precise positioning of the embolic material. This precision minimizes interference with normal brain tissue.

What is the prognosis of a patient with a ruptured brain aneurysm?

The prognosis (outlook) for a patient with a ruptured brain aneurysm depends on the extent and location of the aneurysm, the person's age, their general health, and their neurological condition. Some individuals with a ruptured brain aneurysm die from the initial bleeding. Other individuals recover with little or no damage to the nervous system. Early diagnosis and treatment are important in preserving brain tissues from further injury.

Note that brain aneurysms are also called cerebral aneurysms and intracranial aneurysms.

This article is based in part upon a 1999 report from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Brain Aneurysm At A Glance
  • A brain aneurysm is a weak spot in a blood vessel in the brain.
  • A brain aneurysm is also called a cerebral aneurysm.
  • A person of any age can have a brain aneurysm.
  • The danger posed by a brain aneurysm is from rupture and bleeding into the brain.
  • Brain aneurysms can rupture without warning.
  • Warning signs of a rupture include the sudden onset of splitting headache, vision impairment, loss of consciousness, or nausea and vomiting.
  • Prompt diagnosis and treatment of a brain aneurysm are important for survival and recovery.


Brain Food Pictures: What to Eat to Boost Focus See Slideshow

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors