Brain Aneurysm

A brain aneurysm, also called a cerebral aneurysm, is a weakened section of an artery in the brain. When the artery wall weakens, it typically bulges out, similar to how a balloon inflates. The walls of an aneurysm are very thin, increasing the risk of rupturing and disrupting the movement of oxygenated blood to the brain.

By far, the most serious consequence of an aneurysm is a rupture. However, brain aneurysms also fill with blood and can put pressure on the nerves and tissue in the brain. This can lead to a variety of dangerous and disruptive neurological symptoms.

When a brain aneurysm ruptures, blood floods out of the artery and into the space between the skull and brain. This is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Hemorrhage in the brain can have severe and even life-threatening effects, leading to rapid changes in sodium levels, swelling in the brain tissue, a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and seizures.

It’s important to take note of the symptoms and seek immediate medical attention when experiencing a severe headache or other symptoms far worse than anything previously experienced.

Brain Aneurysm Symptoms

Brain aneurysm symptoms will vary depending on severity, location and whether it has ruptured. In many cases, patients with a brain aneurysm that has not ruptured may not experience any symptoms at all. But in cases where the aneurysm is enlarged or pressing on the nerves of the brain, a person might experience:

  • Blurry or double vision
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Pain behind one eye
  • Weakness or numbness

When a brain aneurysm ruptures, severe and intense symptoms often result that require immediate action and treatment. Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include:

  • Blurry or double vision
  • Confusion
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain above the eye
  • Seizure
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stiff neck
  • The worst headache of your life
  • Unconsciousness
  • Weakness or numbness

How a Brain Aneurysm Is Diagnosed

Because brain aneurysms do not typically cause symptoms until they are severe or have ruptured, they are often not diagnosed until that point. If symptoms are exhibited and a doctor believes a brain aneurysm might be the cause, immediate and prompt diagnosis is necessary.

To confirm an aneurysm is present, a doctor will order imaging tests and other diagnostic testing, which may include CT, MRI, cerebral angiography and a cerebrospinal fluid analysis. CT angiography is also commonly used to capture sharp, detailed images of blood flow in the brain.

Diagnostic testing will identify whether and which type of aneurysm (either saccular, which means bulging out on one side, or fusiform, which bulges out on all sides) is present and whether the aneurysm has ruptured or is at risk of rupturing.

Brain Aneurysm Treatment

If the brain aneurysm is unruptured, a doctor may recommend a number of treatment options depending on the type of aneurysm, the risk of it rupturing and the patient’s individual health needs. Lifestyle changes, including quitting smoking, medication therapy with antiseizure drugs or calcium channel-blocking drugs are all possible recommendations. Surgical or interventional procedures may be necessary.

However in some cases, very minor and unruptured brain aneurysms may not require treatment at all. When that’s the case, a doctor will order frequent diagnostic tests to monitor the aneurysm and ensure it has not worsened.

When an aneurysm has ruptured, treatment options include a procedure known as microvascular clipping, in which a tiny clip is surgically implanted at the neck of an aneurysm to cut off its blood supply, as well as interventional procedures to block the aneurysm or divert blood flow from the brain aneurysm.

In many cases, people who have experienced a subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the space around the brain) due to a brain aneurysm will require rehabilitation therapy following treatment. This may include a combination of physical, occupational and speech therapies to restore abilities lost due to diminished blood flow in the brain.



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