Brain Aneurysm

A brain aneurysm is a balloon or bubble-like growth usually located on an artery at the base of the brain. Aneurysms typically develop at the point where a major artery branches into smaller arteries.

Aneurysms have the potential to rupture, causing bleeding into the brain or the surrounding area called the subarachnoid space, leading to a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Subarachnoid hemorrhage from a ruptured brain aneurysm can cause a hemorrhagic stroke, brain damage and death.

About 3 percent to 5 percent of the North American population is affected by a brain aneurysm. The condition most commonly affects adults between the ages of 35 to 60 years old, although children also can have the condition. Aneurysms affect women more frequently than men.

The condition can develop from continuous wear and tear on the artery walls and also can be caused by other factors, including genetic factors, an injury or infection.

Brain aneurysms typically do not cause any symptoms until they rupture. The hallmark symptom of a ruptured aneurysm is a sudden and extremely severe headache that may occur with nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, impaired consciousness, seizures or coma.

Some brain aneurysms do not rupture, although they should still be promptly diagnosed and treated. People with unruptured aneurysms may not have any symptoms at all, although others may experience the following:

  • Cranial nerve palsy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Double vision
  • Localized headache
  • Pain above and behind the eye

Emergency treatment for individuals with a ruptured cerebral aneurysm generally includes restoring deteriorating respiration and reducing intracranial pressure.

Currently there are three treatment options for brain aneurysms:

  • Medical hypotensive therapy
  • Surgical clipping
  • Endovascular coiling

When possible, either surgical clipping or endovascular coiling is usually performed within the first 24 hours after bleeding to occlude the ruptured aneurysm and reduce the risk of rebleeding.