What You Need to Know About Brain Aneurysm
- A brain aneurysm (also called a cerebral aneurysm or an intracranial aneurysm) is a ballooning arising from a weakened area in the wall of a blood vessel in the brain.
- If the brain aneurysm expands and the blood vessel wall becomes too thin, the aneurysm will rupture and bleed into the space around the brain. This event is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) and may cause a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke.
Rupturing brain aneurysm and SAH are life-threatening events. If you suspect you are having a rupturing brain aneurysm, call 911.
What are the symptoms of brain aneurysm?
Note: The symptoms of an aneurysm may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
A brain aneurysm may not make its presence known until it ruptures. However, occasionally there may be symptoms that occur beforehand due to the rapid expansion of the aneurysm in its final stages.
Also, if a brain aneurysm is large enough, it may push on a nerve in the brain causing neurological symptoms, such as blurring of vision, headaches and more.
The symptoms of an unruptured brain aneurysm may include:
- Eye pain
- Vision deficits (problems with seeing)
- Double or blurry vision
A rupturing brain aneurysm may have any of the symptoms listed above, as well as:
- Sudden, severe headache
- Loss of consciousness
- Facial pain
What are the risk factors for brain aneurysm?
An estimated 2 percent of people have one or more brain aneurysms. Most of these are discovered when they begin to rupture, which occurs most often in adults. A small percentage of aneurysm patients are children.
Some people are born with a weakness in one or more spots of the arteries in the brain and these can develop into aneurysms. Over many years, brain aneurysms grow due to the pounding of the blood in this weak spot, which expands the balloon.
Other risk factors include:
About 46 percent of patients do not survive the first hemorrhage, and if the aneurysm is not repaired in time and a second hemorrhage occurs, about 80 percent of patients die.
Brain Aneurysm Diagnosis
Most unruptured brain aneurysms are discovered incidentally during routine imaging of the brain, such as during an MRI or MRA scan. If this happens you may be referred to a neurosurgeon who can work with you to eliminate the aneurysm before it ruptures and bleeds.
If you have a family history of brain aneurysms, you are encouraged to get screening that can detect an unruptured aneurysm. Screening may also be a good idea for those with new neurological symptoms, such as headaches or visual disturbances.
Your doctor will choose diagnostic tests depending on the location of the aneurysm. After getting a complete medical history and performing a physical examination, your doctor may schedule you for one or more of these diagnostic procedures:
Computed tomography angiography scan (also called a CTA scan): a diagnostic test that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, and can capture detailed images of blood vessels in the brain.
Magnetic resonance imaging and angiography (MRI/MRA): a diagnostic test that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of the brain and its blood vessels.
Arteriogram (cerebral angiogram): a diagnostic procedure that obtains X-ray images of the blood vessels in order to evaluate various conditions, such as brain aneurysm. A dye (contrast) is injected through a thin flexible tube placed in an artery. This dye will make the blood vessels visible on the X-ray images.
Brain Aneurysm Treatment
Brain aneurysms are treated using one or more of the following methods, depending on the location and size of the aneurysm and whether or not it has ruptured, as well as the individual patient’s needs: