Why Brain Aneurysms Develop
Exactly what causes the wall of affected blood vessels to weaken is still unclear, although risk factors have been identified.
- high blood pressure
- a family history of brain aneurysms
In some cases, an aneurysm may develop because there was a weakness in the walls of the blood vessels at birth.
What Are Peripheral Aneurysms And What Are The Different Types Of This Aneurysm
A peripheral aneurysm occurs when the wall of a blood vessel in an organ or another part of the body weakens and dilates. The dilation can cause blood clots and interrupt blood flow, and can rupture and cause serious bleeding and compression of adjacent tissues. Peripheral aneurysms are usually genetic and are rare.
A popliteal aneurysm is one that develops in an artery behind the knee. It is the most common type of peripheral aneurysm, accounting for 85 percent of all peripheral aneurysms and is associated with abdominal aortic aneurysms 40 to 50 percent of the time.
Other types of peripheral aneurysms include:
- Splenic Artery Aneurysm An aneurysm that develops near the spleen
- Mesenteric Artery Aneurysm An aneurysm in the artery that transports blood to the intestines
- Femoral Artery Aneurysm An aneurysm that forms in the femoral artery in the groin
- Carotid Artery Aneurysm An aneurysm that occurs in the carotid artery in the neck
- Visceral Aneurysm A bulge of the arteries that supply blood to the bowel or kidneys
Diagnosis Of A Brain Aneurysm
Johns Hopkins estimates that two percent of people have one or more brain aneurysms. Most aneurysms declare themselves by bleeding in adults between the ages of 45 to 65 years. Children, however, can also have brain aneurysms. In fact, two percent to three percent of patients with aneurysms that we treat at Johns Hopkins are children. We attempt whenever possible to identify and address aneurysms before they bleed.
The type of diagnostic testing performed depends on the location of the aneurysm. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for an aneurysm may include one or more of the following tests:
- Computed tomography scan : a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images , both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than standard x-rays.
- Magnetic resonance imaging : a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
- Arteriogram : an x-ray image of the blood vessels used to evaluate various conditions, such as aneurysm, stenosis , or blockages. A dye will be injected through a thin flexible tube placed in an artery. This dye will make the blood vessels visible on the x-ray.
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What Is The Outcome Of Brain Aneurysm
Brain aneurysms are deadly. About 10% of patients with a ruptured aneurysm die before receiving medical care. If untreated, another 50% will die within a month, with a 20% risk of rebleed by the end of the first two weeks. Aside from the bleeding issues, there is significant risk of artery spasm leading to stroke.
Survival rates are increased in patients who present early to the hospital. Early diagnosis, aneursym repair, and control of blood vessel spasms with appropriate medications are all associated with increased survival.
Surgical Repair Of Aneurysms
If the aortic aneurysm is less than five cm wide, it is usually left untreated, but closely monitored . If it is larger than five cm, the aneurysm is surgically repaired. In most cases, the aneurysm is cut out and the hole is plugged with an artificial graft.Depending on the location of the cerebral aneurysm, it will be treated either surgically with clipping, or by using fine platinum coils inserted in the aneurysm via an angiogram, which is a radiological procedure used, in this case, to close the aneurysm and preserve the normal flow of blood in the brain.Treatment of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm is an urgent procedure, but treatment of an unruptured aneurysm can be performed semi-electively.
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Unruptured Aneurysms & Ruptured Aneurysms
Most brain aneurysms form without any symptoms. An unruptured brain aneurysm may be found during brain imaging such as an MRI when a patient is being screened for another condition. If an aneurysm is discovered, it’s important to see a neurosurgeon who is an expert in diagnosing, managing, and treating brain aneurysms. Certain people may be at a higher risk for brain aneurysm. If you discover that you are at a high risk, it’s important to discuss screening tests with your doctor.
A ruptured brain aneurysm is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm most often include sudden onset of a severe headache most patients describe as the worst headache they have felt in their life.
What Causes An Aneurysm To Bleed
We usually dont know why an aneurysm bleeds or exactly when it will bleed. We do know what increases the chance for bleeding:
High blood pressure is the leading cause ofsubarachnoid hemorrhage.Heavy lifting or straining can cause pressure to rise in the brain and may lead to an aneurysm rupture.
Strong emotions, such as being upset or angry, can raise blood pressure and can subsequently cause aneurysms to rupture.
*Blood thinners , some medications and prescription drugs , and harmful drugs like cocaine can cause aneurysms to rupture and bleed.
What are the chances that an unruptured aneurysm may bleed? Many factors determine whether an aneurysm is likely to bleed. These include the size, shape and location of the aneurysm and symptoms that it causes. Smaller aneurysms that are uniform in size may be less likely to bleed than larger, irregularly shaped ones. Once an aneurysm has bled, theres a very high chance of re-bleeding.
What happens if an aneurysm bleeds? If an aneurysm ruptures, it leaks blood into the space around the brain. This is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Depending on the amount of blood, it can produce:
- a sudden severe headache that can last from several hours to days
- nausea and vomiting drowsiness and/or coma
The hemorrhage may also damage the brain directly, usually from bleeding into the brain itself. This is called a . This can lead to:
- weakness or paralysis of an arm or leg
- trouble speaking or understanding language
- vision problems
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What Can I Do To Reduce My Risk Of Having Another Brain Aneurysm
Taking care of your overall health is the best thing you can do to prevent future aneurysms. Steps you can take include:
- Eat a healthy diet, limit caffeine and avoid stimulant drugs.
- Quit smoking.
- Manage conditions that contribute to high blood pressure.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about lifestyle changes you can make and medications that may help.
A sudden, severe headache with or without stroke symptoms could be a sign of a brain aneurysm. A ruptured brain aneurysm is a serious, life-threatening condition that needs immediate medical attention and emergency treatment. If you have an unruptured brain aneurysm, talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of different treatment and management options.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/26/2020.
Recovery After Brain Aneurysm Rupture
After a brain aneurysm rupture, bleeding in the brain can cause seizures, loss of consciousness, paralysis, vision loss, or difficulty communicating. Other complications may occur, such as heart and blood pressure irregularities and difficulty breathing. Edema can occur in the brain as well, causing further brain damage.
Medical treatment can include intravenous fluids, anti-epilepsy drugs, steroids, blood pressure management, cardiac medications, and/or mechanical assistance with breathing.
Some people have surgery to repair a brain aneurysm after it has ruptured, but this depends on the situation.
Rehabilitation is similar to rehabilitation after a stroke, and can include speech therapy, physical therapy, and cognitive therapy.
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Heres What It Feels Like To Have A Brain Aneurysm
Brain aneurysms located on the basilar artery, near the brain stem at the base of the skull, are extremely difficult to operate on and carry a high rate of mortality.
Aneurysms that carry the greatest risk of rupture are those that are larger than 7 milliliters in diameter, are located in the posterior or anterior arteries, and have a “daughter sac.” These daughter aneurysms, have a complex shape and an additional bulge on the top or dome, Dr. Teitelbaum says.
Some symptoms of a brain aneurysm include a severe headache, described as the worst headache youve ever had, dilated pupils, blurred or double vision, pain above and behind an eye, weakness, numbness, and difficulty speaking.
There are two types of brain aneurysms: saccular and fusiform.
Differences Between An Aneurysm And Stroke
An aneurysm is not a stroke, but it can cause one. When an aneurysm bursts, this deprives the brain of blood, potentially leading to a stroke.
The symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm and stroke are similar but not identical. While both cause neurological symptoms, such as dizziness or blurred vision, aneurysms also typically cause headaches.
Both conditions are serious medical emergencies that demand immediate treatment. Therefore, a person should see a doctor whether they have symptoms of an aneurysm, stroke, or both.
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What Causes A Brain Aneurysm
Brain aneurysms happen due to structural changes in the walls of an artery in the brain. These changes cause the walls of the artery to get weaker and become thin. The deformity can happen due to thinning of the wall, but sometimes inflammation or trauma can cause the deformity without thinning.
Its still unclear what exactly causes aneurysms to form. However, its believed that one or a combination of the following factors may promote their development:
- a break down of elastic tissue within the artery
- stress from blood flow through the artery
- tissue changes in the artery due to increases in inflammation
Brain aneurysms are also more likely to happen where an artery branches into different directions. This is because arteries are naturally weaker at these locations.
Its possible for aneurysms to be present from birth. However, they most often develop over the course of your lifetime. This can be due to a variety of risk factors that well discuss below.
What Should You Do If You Think You Have An Aneurysm
If you have a family history of brain aneurysms or you feel like you may have one, speak with your doctor about your concerns. To detect a brain aneurysm, you would have to have a brain scan that allows your doctor to see the blood vessels in your brain as the blood shows through. Possible types of brain scans include:
- Computed tomographic angiography : This type of brain scan follows dye that was injected into your vein as it travels through the blood vessels in your brain.
- Magnetic resonance angiography : An MRA is similar to a CT scan, but while a CT scan uses radiation similar to X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging machines use magnetic and radio waves to make the images on a screen.
- Diagnostic cerebral angiography : Although a DCA can detect smaller aneurysms than a CTA or MRA can, this test is not usually a first choice as it is an invasive procedure. A small incision is made in your groin so your doctor can insert a long catheter that is threaded up to your neck and your brain. A dye is injected through the catheter, and X-rays are taken of your brain as the dye flows through the blood vessels.
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Blood Supply Of The Brain
To understand aneurysms, it is helpful to know how blood circulates to the brain . Blood is pumped from the heart and carried to the brain by two paired arteries, the internal carotid arteries and the vertebral arteries . The internal carotid arteries supply the anterior areas and the vertebral arteries supply the posterior areas of the brain. After passing through the skull, the right and left vertebral arteries join together to form a single basilar artery. The basilar artery and the internal carotid arteries communicate with each other in a ring at the base of the brain called the Circle of Willis.
Recovery From A Brain Aneurysm
Any time your brain suffers trauma, whether by pressure or bleeding from the aneurysm or during surgery, you can develop side effects. Many people experience:
- Behavior changes
- Poor coordination
- Muscle weakness
Starting a customized physical therapy program is the best way to overcome these neurological problems. We offer complete care, from a comprehensive evaluation to a treatment plan that focuses on your unique challenges.
We draw from many therapies that retrain your brain and teach your body how to move. You may need gait training, balance training, or exercises to improve motor control or cardiovascular endurance, to give you just a few examples. We also offer vestibular evaluations and treatment for balance problems.
If you have questions about rehabilitating from a brain aneurysm or would like to start physical therapy, you can contact Prolete Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine any time, with or without a doctors referral. Call or book an appointment online today.
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Psoriasis May Raise Risk Of Aneurysms In The Abdomen
Nearly all untreated mycotic aneurysms lead to rupture and can be fatal, which is why timely diagnosis and treatment are key.
Aneurysms that occur in blood vessels in the heart are also categorized as either true, or those that involve all the three layers of the arterial wall, or false , which is marked by a collection of blood that leaks out of the artery but is confined by the surrounding tissue.
What Are The Chances Of Surviving A Brain Aneurysm
People can go their entire lives not knowing they have an unruptured brain aneurysm. As long as its intact, your odds are good. But there is a risk that the brain aneurysm will rupture, which depends on many factors, including aneurysm size, location and several others. If an aneurysm does rupture, it leaks blood into the space surrounding your brain and sometimes into the brain tissue itself, causing a hemorrhagic stroke.
A ruptured brain aneurysm requires emergency medical treatment. As more time passes with a ruptured aneurysm, the likelihood of death or disability increases. About 75% of people with a ruptured brain aneurysm survive longer than 24 hours. A quarter of the survivors, though, may have life-ending complications within six months.
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Brain Aneurysm: 4 Things You Need To Know
When part of a blood vessel in your brain bulges, or balloons, it’s called an aneurysm. Every brain aneurysm is unique in location, shape and size. These particulars guide your doctor in determining how and whether to treat a brain aneurysm.
Is There Any Way To Prevent An Aneurysm
Eating a nutrient-rich diet containing plenty of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables may help prevent an aneurysm from forming. Meat and poultry low in saturated fat and cholesterol are also good protein options. Low fat dairy products are also beneficial.
Incorporating regular exercise into your routine, especially cardio, can encourage healthy blood circulation and blood flow through the heart, arteries, and other blood vessels.
If you smoke tobacco products, consider quitting. Eliminating tobacco can decrease your risk of an aneurysm. Quitting can be challenging, but a healthcare professional can help you build a cessation plan that works for you and connect you with other supportive resources.
Scheduling annual checkups is another way to be proactive about helping prevent an aneurysm. Its also a way to help promote overall health and well-being.
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How Can A Brain Aneurysm Growth Or New Aneurysm Formation Be Prevented
Once an aneurysm is found, it is not expected to resolve on its own. However, aneurysm growth, change, risk of aneurysm rupture, or new aneurysm formation can be reduced by having a healthy lifestyle. Steps you can take include:
- Exercise regularly without excessive heavy lifting.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Get help for alcohol or drug use disorder and dont use cocaine or other stimulant drugs.
- Control high blood pressure with medications and lifestyle changes.
Where Can I Get More Information
For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:
Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
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Signs Of An Unruptured Brain Aneurysm
If your unruptured aneurysm causes symptoms, you will experience neurological problems such as:
- Pain above or around one eye
- Weakness on one side of your face
- Numbness on one side of your face
Headaches are the most common sign of a brain aneurysm. Once symptoms appear, nearly one-third of all patients keep having persistent or chronic problems.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should schedule an exam with your primary care doctor or a neurologist. Your insurance company may require you to have your symptoms evaluated by your primary care doctor first. If they determine your symptoms might be signs of an aneurysm, they refer you to a neurologist.