An aneurysm is a weak spot in the wall of an artery resulting in abnormal widening or ballooning of the blood vessel. This weak spot can rupture, causing bleeding into the brain known as a hemorrhagic stroke. Bleeding in the brain due to a ruptured aneurysm is a serious and life threatening condition. The most common symptom is an extremely severe headache that occurs suddenly, often described as a “thunderclap headache”. Other symptoms that may accompany the headache are nausea, vomiting, dizziness, visual changes, loss of consciousness or seizure. The risk of an aneurysm rupturing is dependent on its size and location.
Aneurysms may be present from birth, or they may develop over time from conditions that weaken the blood vessel wall. Smoking, drug abuse, high blood pressure, trauma, infection of a blood vessel, and atherosclerosis (build up of plaque in the arterial wall) are all conditions that can lead to aneurysm formation. Aneurysms can also run in families. Individuals who have one or more first or second degree relatives with an aneurysm are at increased risk for having or developing one.
Treatment options for a brain aneurysm include surgical clipping, endovascular coiling or stenting, or close monitoring with imaging. Surgical clipping involves brain surgery to place a metal clip along the base of the aneurysm, preventing blood from flowing into it. This seals off the aneurysm to prevent rupture. Endovascular coiling is the placement of tiny metallic coils into the aneurysm to form a blood clot inside and inhibit rupture. Flow diverting devices, or stents, can also be placed intravascularly to reduce flow into the aneurysm. The size, shape and location of an aneurysm are key factors in determining the most ideal treatment option.