DISEASES AND CONDITIONS

What Is a Brain Aneurysm?

September 14, 2018

What Is a Brain Aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of a brain artery. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood to organs, such as the brain. A brain aneurysm can occur in an artery wall that is weak or has a defect. Aneurysm is often linked with hardening of the arteries. Other risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heredity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Cocaine abuse
  • Head injury

If the bulge in a brain artery tears and bleeds, nearby brain tissue may be damaged. This can cause severe problems or death.

Health care provider talking to family in hospital waiting room.

Symptoms

In most cases, a brain aneurysm has no symptoms until it bleeds or tears. Symptoms of this can include:

  • Severe headache

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Stiff neck

  • Brief blackout

  • Confusion

  • Slow movements

  • Clumsiness

  • Vision or speech problems

  • Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body

  • Jerking movements, such as seizures or convulsions

  • Coma

Getting medical care fast

A brain aneurysm needs to be assessed right away and treated if possible. This may save the person's life. After tests are done and the cause is known, the healthcare team will call specialists. Treatment will start right away if the aneurysm has bled.

In some cases, bleeding can only be treated with supportive medical care. If the aneurysm has bled, treatment may not reverse damage to the brain. But surgery may help. It can prevent more bleeding. It can remove trapped blood in and around the brain. And it can relieve extra pressure on the brain. Or other forms of therapy may be done. These include endovascular coiling or microvascular clipping. These can prevent more bleeding.

In some cases, an aneurysm can lead to severe brain injury. This may require medical life support. Sometimes even the most intensive treatment can’t save the person’s life.

Working with the healthcare team

Your loved one may be too ill to know what’s going on. You may need to decide on the extent of his or her treatment. The healthcare team will answer any questions you have. Choose only a few family members to talk to the healthcare team. These family members can share what they learn with others. Doing this will make it simpler to keep everyone informed.

Updated:  

September 14, 2018

Reviewed By:  

Sudheendra, Deepak, MD