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Aneurysm Fast Facts

An estimated 1 in 50 people have an unruptured brain aneurysm.  That amounts to approximately 6.5 million Americans.

About 8 in every 10,000 people will suffer from a ruptured aneurysm each year.  As many as 80% of aneurysms never rupture.

Two-thirds of people who survive a ruptured aneurysm will suffer from permanent neurological damage.

Women are more likely to experience a ruptured aneurysm.  African-Americans and Hispanics are at greater risk, as well.

About 500,000 people die each year as a result of a ruptured aneurysm. Half of the fatal cases are in people under the age of 50.

What is an Aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm (also called a cerebral aneurysm) is a bulge in a blood vessel in the brain caused by a weakening in the vessel wall. As the blood pressure in the vessel pushes on the weak spot, the vessel wall expands outward like a balloon and is at risk of rupturing or leaking.

When an aneurysm ruptures or leaks, the result is bleeding into the surrounding brain tissue, an event called a hemorrhagic stroke. The bleeding commonly happens at the surface of the brain, between the brain tissue and the membranes that surround it. The bleeding can cause a damaging loss of oxygen to brain tissue. If fluid builds up in the space where the bleeding occurs, the resulting pressure on brain tissue can also cause damage.

The rupture or leakage of an aneurysm often occurs without warning, and it can very quickly turn into a life-threatening situation. Immediate emergency treatment is vital to reduce the risk of permanent, severe neurological damage or death.

Symptoms of a Ruptured Aneurysm

Signs that an aneurysm has ruptured include:

  • Sudden, extreme headache (often described as well beyond any other kind of headache pain)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Light sensitivity and/or vision problems
  • Confusion
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Stiff neck
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness

Sometimes an aneurysm leaks without fully rupturing. The most common symptom of a leaking aneurysm is a sudden, extreme headache. Very often, a leaking aneurysm will eventually rupture.

Unruptured Aneurysms

Many aneurysms don’t rupture. They don’t produce any symptoms and can go undetected. If an unruptured aneurysm is detected with imaging tests, treatment may be recommended.

If a large unruptured aneurysm puts pressure on brain tissue, it may cause symptoms including:

  • Pain near one eye
  • Vision problems
  • One dilated pupil
  • Numbness or tingling on one side of the face

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

What Causes an Aneurysm?

There is not an easily definable, predictable, or preventable cause of a brain aneurysm. Some aneurysms are present at birth, while others develop later in life as a result of inherited and/or external factors.

Risk factors for an aneurysm that are present at birth include:

  • Inherited connective tissue diseases such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. These conditions can make blood vessels unusually weak.
  • Inherited polycystic kidney disease. This condition causes cysts to form in the kidneys, and it also usually causes high blood pressure that can cause an aneurysm.
  • Arteriovenous malformation. This is a condition that causes blood vessels to develop into tangles through which blood does not pass normally. When this happens in the brain, an aneurysm can result.
  • Family history. If a parent or sibling has suffered from an aneurysm, an individual is more likely to develop an aneurysm themselves.

Risk factors that may contribute to the development of an aneurysm later in life include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Substance abuse
  • Brain trauma

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

Is an Aneurysm Hereditary?

Many aneurysms are caused by factors that are not connected to inherited traits. However, some aneurysms are almost certainly the result of inherited risk factors. A few inherited diseases (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, polycystic kidney disease, etc.) increase the risk of developing an aneurysm because they produce the conditions that are favorable for the development of the problem.

Aside from these relatively easy-to-spot inherited conditions, a family history of aneurysms also increases the risk of aneurysm development in general. This connection suggests that a genetic predisposition may be to blame, but researchers have not yet been able to find a definite genetic cause.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How is an Aneurysm Detected?

When a brain aneurysm ruptures or leaks, life-threatening complications can set in within minutes. It’s crucial that the patient receive emergency medical treatment immediately. If someone near you experiences a sudden, extreme, unexplained headache, has a seizure, or loses consciousness, call 911 or your local emergency medical number immediately. Stroke patients who reach the hospital within one hour of symptoms receive a clot-busting drug twice as often as those arriving later. Researchers call the first hour of symptom onset “the golden hour.” The study reinforces the importance of reacting quickly to stroke symptoms because “time lost is brain lost.”

If an unruptured aneurysm is detected with an imaging exam, your doctor may suggest treatment to prevent a rupture from happening in the future.

Imaging scans are generally not used to screen for brain aneurysms in healthy patients. However, some doctors may recommend screening for people who have a family history of aneurysms or who have a medical condition that increases the risk of an aneurysm.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How is an Aneurysm Diagnosed?

If a patient shows symptoms consistent with a ruptured aneurysm, doctors will perform a series of tests to confirm whether there is bleeding in the brain. Some tests might be conducted, also, if the symptoms suggest the presence of an unruptured aneurysm.

Diagnostic tests for an aneurysm include:

  • Imaging exams. Computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan will show doctors what’s happening in your brain and can show the presence of an aneurysm or bleeding.
  • Spinal tap. An examination of the fluid from your spinal column can indicate that a type of bleeding called a subarachnoid hemorrhage has occurred. This test may be able to detect an aneurysm even if it is not currently bleeding.
  • Cerebral angiogram. This test uses a thin tube to inject dye into an artery. The dye, which shows up on x-rays, then travels to the brain, and it can show the presence of an aneurysm. This test is usually used when other tests are inconclusive.

PLEASE CONSULT A PHYSICIAN FOR MORE INFORMATION.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How is an Aneurysm Treated?

Treatment for a ruptured aneurysm is usually surgical and aimed at stopping the flow of blood into the aneurysm. Some surgical treatments are more invasive than others.

  • Surgical clipping. This procedure uses a small wire clip that closes off the aneurysm and stops blood flowing into it. The surgery requires the opening of the patient’s skull and carries its own risks.
  • Endovascular coiling. This procedure uses a small metal coil to close off the aneurysm. The coil is inserted into an artery (usually in the groin) through a small tube, and the coil is moved through the body to the site of the aneurysm. This surgery is less invasive and less risky than surgical clipping.
  • Flow diverters. This procedure uses small tubes inserted into blood vessels to divert blood flow away from the aneurysm. This procedure may be used to treat large aneurysms that can’t be directly addressed by other procedures.

These procedures may be used to treat unruptured aneurysms, but sometimes the risks of the surgeries are considered to be greater than the risk of the aneurysm itself.

Medications may be used to treat symptoms and complications following a non-fatal aneurysm rupture.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Does an Aneurysm Progress?

A brain aneurysm rupture is typically a sudden, quick event that produces profound damage. A quarter of people who suffer a ruptured aneurysm die within 24 hours. Another quarter of patients die from complications within six months. Those who survive often experience severe neurological damage that affects them the rest of their lives. Some, however, recover with few significant lasting effects.

Even when a ruptured aneurysm is not immediately fatal, complications from the event can be life-threatening in the future. These complications include:

  • New bleeding. A ruptured aneurysm usually only bleeds for a few seconds. If the patient survives, however, an untreated aneurysm is likely to rupture or bleed again.
  • Fluid build-up. When an aneurysm disrupts blood flow in the brain, the result can be the build-up of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain. This fluid build-up can deprive the brain of oxygen and cause tissue damage. This complication can lead to neurological damage or death.
  • Sodium imbalance. Aneurysm bleeding can cause low sodium levels in the brain, a condition called hyponatremia. This can cause damaging swelling of the brain.
  • Vasospasm. This is a narrowing of blood vessels in the brain caused by the aneurysm rupture. The resulting low blood flow can deprive the brain tissue of oxygen and cause damage.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How is an Aneurysm Prevented?

Avoiding certain lifestyle risk factors may decrease the chance that you’ll develop a brain aneurysm or that an unruptured aneurysm will fail. Avoiding these risk factors is especially important if you have a family history of aneurysm.

Avoidable risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Drug use
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

Aneurysm Caregiver Tips

  • Be aware of the warning signs of a ruptured aneurysm. Immediate treatment is the key to your loved one’s survival. An excruciating, unexplained headache is a symptom of a ruptured or leaking aneurysm. When it occurs, seek emergency medical help immediately.
  • Be prepared for a long recovery. Survivors of a ruptured aneurysm usually face a long rehabilitation process filled with lots of hard work and setbacks. Keep recovery goals small and achievable, and celebrate victories as they come.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

Aneurysm Brain Science

Scientists are trying to find ways to spot aneurysms that are likely to rupture and to find ways to treat aneurysms to prevent their failure. Research is also ongoing into genetic, physiological, and environmental risk factors with the hope of finding treatments that may prevent the development of aneurysms.

Areas of current research include:

  • Genetics. Scientists have identified a connection between brain aneurysms and aneurysms in the aorta (the main artery leading from the heart to the rest of the body). Recent studies have suggested that there is a genetic trait that seems to increase the risk for both kinds of an aneurysm. The implication is that those with a family history of aortic aneurysm should also be alert to an increased risk of a brain aneurysm.
  • Diagnosis. Researchers are examining a common type of brain aneurysm and trying to determine which features of the aneurysm cause the greatest risk of rupture. Their data could be used to develop a diagnostic scale that could, in turn, be used to determine if the risks of surgical treatment are justified.
  • Medication. The anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin have been shown to decrease the risk of aneurysm rupture. However, aspirin can also cause excessive bleeding, an effect that is dangerous if the aneurysm ruptures. Researchers have been working to find effective anti-inflammatory medications that don’t pose the same bleeding risks.
  • Hormones. Women are more likely to experience brain aneurysms than men, especially after menopause. Therapies that replace estrogen, a hormone whose level declines in women after menopause, decrease the risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage, a type of aneurysm rupture. Research is ongoing into how, exactly, estrogen guards against aneurysm rupture.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

Aneurysm Research

Scientists are working on several research projects to expand on what is known about Aneurysm.  The research will improve knowledge about the factors that increase the risk for Aneurysm, as well as the causes, and best treatments, and will aid people living with Aneurysm and their caregivers.

We are currently gathering the information required to support projects such as Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage Trial RandOmizing Heparin (ASTROH), Study to Evaluate Cerebral AneurysmFlow Results in Occlusion (CARO)and Framing Eighteen Coils in Cerebral Aneurysms Trial (FEAT).

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

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