A brain aneurysm is an abnormal bulge or weakening present within a blood vessel in the brain. Due to the abnormal bulging of the blood vessel wall, its lining becomes less resilient, and it is prone to rupturing. If a brain aneurysm ruptures, there will be excessive bleeding within the brain, which is a life-threatening emergency.
The exact mechanisms by which cerebral aneurysms develop, grow, and rupture are unknown. However, a number of factors are believed to contribute to the formation of cerebral aneurysms, including smoking, high blood pressure, complications from blood infections, traumatic head injury, or genetic predisposition.
Depending on the size of the aneurysm, there may or may not be any symptoms associated with it. If the aneurysm ruptures, patients often complain of the worst headache of their life. Other symptoms include visual changes, weakness, nausea, vomiting, numbness, and tingling.
If a brain aneurysm is suspected in a patient, a series of tests will be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. First, a computed topography (CT) scan of head will be ordered to look for the presence and location of bleeding. Additional tests may include an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, cerebral angiogram, and a lumbar puncture.
Treatment for a brain aneurysm is dependent on several factors including size and location of the aneurysm and overall health of the patient. If the aneurysm has already ruptured, intervention is usually required. In most instances, this will not require open surgery as endovascular coiling is frequently the preferred choice. In other instances, open surgery may be necessary or life-saving.