Brain Aneurysm

What is a Brain Aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm is a “bubble” that occurs in the wall of an artery within the brain which can fill up with blood. When it eventually bursts, serious damage to surrounding brain cells may be caused. A brain aneurysm usually affects main brain arteries that run under the brain and the base of the skull. Although anyone can suffer from a brain aneurysm, the risk of the aneurysm bursting increases in people over the age of 40, with women being at greater risk than men.

A brain aneurysm develops in a weak or a defective artery wall, though the cause of this is not yet fully known. It could be a degeneration process, where factors such as increasing age and high blood pressure play a crucial role. It is also often linked to atherosclerosis, a blood vessel disease that causes hardening of arteries due to the accumulation of fatty deposits on the inside of the arterial walls.

Brain aneurysms commonly occur in people with particular genetic disorders including connective tissue disorder and polycystic kidney disease. Some circulation diseases, such as arteriovenous malformation, can also cause brain aneurysms. Other causes include excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs, head injuries, infection, and tumours.

Symptoms of brain aneurysm, which may not be displayed until bleeding occurs, include:

  • Impaired vision and speech
  • Loss of consciousness or short blackouts
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Paralysis or weakness one side of the body
  • Seizure
  • Sudden severe headache

Brain aneurysms have to be treated immediately to avoid fatal consequences. The aim of the following treatment is to stop the aneurysm from bursting, or to prevent bleeding if the aneurysm has already burst:

  • Bypass procedure - used to reroute blood around the occluded part of the artery, which is done at the same time as the occlusion procedure.
  • Endovascular procedure - a catheter is inserted from the groin and manoeuvred towards the affected brain arteries. Platinum coils are released into the aneurysm to induce blood clot formation.
  • Microsurgical clipping - surgeon places a clip around the bulging aneurysm to cut its blood supply and prevent further bleeding.
  • Occlusion – an open surgery procedure that blocks blood flow to the aneurysm through the artery.

Related Specialties