The Hidden Dangers of Brain Aneurysm
1 in 50 people have an unruptured brain aneurysm, and many don't even know it.
A brain aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel within the brain, the result of a thin artery wall.
[Image description: blood vessel with ballooning area]
A ruptured aneurysm causes sudden and severe symptoms, including an extreme headache. In many cases, it is fatal or results in permanent neurological damage.
[Image description: blood vessel with ballooning area bursting]
Most unruptured aneurysms are asymptomatic and go undetected.
Some may be large enough to press on brain tissue and/or nerves, giving potential warning signs:
- Pain above and behind the eye
- Dilated pupil
- Change in vision or double vision
- Numbness, weakness or paralysis of one side of the face
- Drooping eyelid
Risk for aneurysm increases with:
- Old age
- Being female
- High blood pressure
- Drug abuse, particularly cocaine
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Certain blood infections
- Lower estrogen levels after menopause
- Family history of brain aneurysm, particularly first-degree relatives
- Selected medical conditions such as polycystic kidney disease and fibromuscular dysplasia
[Image description: Doctor with stethoscope]
High-risk individuals should consult their doctor to determine whether screening is warranted.
Innovative treatments for aneurysm exist to help prevent rupture.
Conservative management is the best treatment for some aneurysms, particularly ones that are very small. Repeat imaging is used to assess for potential aneurysm growth and determine whether additional treatment is needed.
- Aneurysm is accessed by a catheter, inserted in an artery at the groin and guided to the brain.
- Soft platinum wire is fed through the catheter, coiling up inside the aneurysm.
- Causes blood to clot within the aneurysm, sealing it from the artery.
[Image description: Artery with ballooning area with a bundle of coiled wire inside the balloon.
- Aneurysm accessed by removing a portion of the skull.
- Neurosurgeon places a microclip on the opening of the aneurysm.
- Prevents blood from entering aneurysm.
[Image description: Artery with ballooning area. Metal paper clip-like clip at base of the balloon.]
- Aneurysm accessed by a catheter, inserted in an artery at the groin and guided to the brain.
- Metal mesh tube is placed in the artery, across the aneurysm.
- Blood flow is channeled through the mesh tube, away from the aneurysm.
- Clot forms within the aneurysm.
[Image description: Artery with ballooning area. Wire mesh tube placed inside the artery underneath balloon.]