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Brain Aneurysm

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There are many blood vessels running through the brain. At times, the blood vessel wall may weaken and lead to brain aneurysm. This is a very scary situation as a rupture of an aneurysm can lead to permanent disability or even death. Thus, it is better to learn all about the condition and help provide support to a patient.

What is Brain Aneurysm?

Also called as cerebral aneurysm or intracranial aneurysm (IA), it is a weak spot occurring within a blood vessel in the brain. It causes a thin balloon –like appearance on the artery wall and may lead to blockage in the flow of blood. The daily wear and tear causing further thinning of the blood vessel wall. Brain aneurysms can affect children as well as adults, however, adults are most commonly affected. More women than men suffer from aneurysms. Aneurysms occur without warning and the rupture can lead to sudden, severe symptoms. These symptoms include severe headache, vomiting, nausea, etc. There is bleeding in and around the brain  that requires surgical treatment.

Types of Brain Aneurysm

There are two types aneurysm that can occur within the brain. These include saccular aneurysm and fusiform aneurysm. The most commonly seen aneurysm is saccular aneurysm. It is seen in about  90% of the patients suffering from an aneurysm. It looks like a cherry or berry and thus, also called as ‘berry aneurysm’.

The second type of aneurysm uncommonly seen is fusiform aneurysm. It appears as if the blood vessel has undergone an expansion from all sides. This type of aneurysm seldomly ruptures or bursts.

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Brain Aneurysm?

Researchers and doctors have outlined certain risk factors that increase one's chances of developing an aneurysm. These include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Alcoholism
  • Trauma to the brain or blood vessels
  • Complications due to a blood infection
  • Age over 40 years
  • Underlying disorders like Marfan Syndrome, Polycystic kidney disease
  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Brain tumors

The main cause of brain aneurysm is thinning of the artery walls with age. Weaker sections in the walls tend to develop clots and lead to formation of aneurysms.

Symptoms of Brain Aneurysm

It is always wise to know about the warning signs of aneurysm especially when one has a family history of brain aneurysm. When one develops a brain aneurysm, it is often idiopathic in nature. Symptoms, if any, of an unruptured aneurysm include:

  • Dilation of pupils
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Double vision
  • Headache
  • Speech problems
  • Changes in behavior
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Decrease in concentration power
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Problems thinking
  • Weakness or numbness within the body
  • Pain behind the eye or above the eyeball
  • Sudden appearance of cranial nerve palsy

When a brain aneurysm burst or ruptures, it leads to sudden severe symptoms like:

  • A splitting headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Double vision
  • Photophobia
  • Stiff neck
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sensation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Intracranial haematoma
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Vasospasm
  • Paralysis or permanent disability
  • Sudden death

Diagnosis of Brain Aneurysm

A diagnosis of a brain aneurysm is carried out with the help of radiological testing. These tests include:

Treatment for Brain Aneurysm

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Brain aneurysm requires surgery. There are two types of surgery that are commonly carried out for a brain aneurysm. These treatments are explained as follows:

Open Surgical Clipping

In this method, a surgeon will makes an incision in the skin over the head. Then, cuts through the bone to reach the aneurysm. Once the surgeon reaches the affected artery, he/she places a very small metal clip on the neck of the aneurysm. This helps stop further blood flow into the aneurysm, thus reducing the risks of bleeding. Once the supply stops, the aneurysm will shrink in size.

Endovascular Coiling

This is a process wherein the aneurysm is reached through the blood vessels. A small incision is made in the artery and the blood vessel is punctured using a needle. Then a thin tube is inserted within the artery that pushes a soft coil of platinum towards the aneurysm. Once the wire reaches the aneurysm, it coils up and stops the flow of blood to the aneurysm. This wire is guided with the help of X-ray visualization as well as radiographic techniques.

Other surgical techniques include:

  • Occlusion and Bypass
  • Liquid Embolics
  • Pipeline Embolization Device

Other treatment methods for a ruptured aneurysm include:

Complications Related to Brain Aneurysm

If the aneurysm ruptures, it can cause many complications. These complications include:

  • Edema or brain swelling
  • Vasospasm
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Hyponatremia
  • Risk of re-bleeding

One needs to provide support and care to a patient to overcome an aneurysm. Patients who show good response to treatment, recover with less complications. One may require prolonged physical therapy, occupational therapy as well as speech or cognitive therapy to overcome the disabilities associated with a ruptured aneurysm. It is important to note down one fact, that, a ruptured brain aneurysm may lead to changes in the personality of the affected person. These changes include:

  • Increase in fatigue
  • Problems with speech
  • Vision problems
  • Behavioral changes
  • Depression
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Recurrent or constant headaches

Patients with unruptured aneurysms show complete recovery along with fewer complications. Follow medical advice and help the survivor overcome this sudden life changing condition.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 4, 2015