Alternate name: Cerebral Aneurysm
The term Brain aneurysm(also called a cerebral aneurysm) refers to a condition where a weakness in the wall of a blood vessel (artery) in the brain causes the vessel to balloon outwards. This ballooning leads to a stretching and thinning of the artery wall over time. Aneurysms may form in different parts of the body but a brain aneurysm is located inside the head, in an artery that supplies the brain with blood.
The aneurysm can look like:
DANGER ASSOCIATED WITH A BRAIN ANEURYSM
The danger associated with an aneurysm is related to the thin wall of the bulging, or ballooning vessel. Under pressure from the blood flowing in the artery, a brain aneurysm can leak or burst (rupture). If this occurs blood will go into the space (subarachnoid space) around the brain. This type of bleeding is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage(SAH) and is considered a medical emergency. For additional information on subarachnoid hemorrhages see the patient guide, Subarachnoid Hemorrhage.
Brain aneurysms can occur anywhere in the brain but most often are found where blood vessels branch apart, or where the blood flows at a higher pressure.
WHO GETS ANEURYSMS?
A brain aneurysm that has not leaked or ruptured usually will not cause any symptoms. Brain aneurysms may develop silently, without any warning.
Rarely, very large aneurysms may cause symptoms such as:
Brain aneurysms can develop for a variety of reasons. Some risk factors that have been linked to developing an aneurysm include:
However, brain aneurysms can occur in people without any risk factors.
CT scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and cerebral angiogram are the main diagnostic tests to find out if you have an aneurysm.
The treatment for a brain aneurysm may vary and depends on the size and location of the aneurysm.
Surgical clipping involves an operation to reach the aneurysm through an opening in the skull (called a craniotomy). A small metal clip is placed at the base of the aneurysm, so that the aneurysm is closed off from the rest of the blood vessel. The surgery for the clipping of an aneurysm is explained in more detail in the patient guide, Aneurysm Clipping.
Endovascular coiling involves placing soft spirals made out of platinum inside the aneurysm. During an angiogram, a tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in the groin and carefully advanced into the brain. Using this catheter, the radiologist will fill the aneurysm with platinum coils. The procedure for endovascular coiling is explained in more detail in the patient guide, Endovascular Treatment of Cerebral Aneurysm With Platinum Coils (GDC).
The result of a successful surgical clipping or endovascular coiling is that blood flows normally through the artery, but no longer enters the aneurysm itself. With no blood flowing into the aneurysm it is no longer at risk of leaking or rupturing.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Whether your treatment involves observation, or you are waiting for coiling or clipping, there are a few things that you should doto lower your risk of an aneurysm rupture.
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This information is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace the advice of a professional healthcare practitioner, or to substitute for medical care.
Writer: Sharron Runions MSc(A), CNN©, Clinical Nurse Specialist.