What is a Brain Aneurysm?
A brain aneurysm, or a cerebral aneurysm, occurs when a weak spot on a blood vessel in the brain bulges. The bulge can put pressure on nerves and brain tissue. In some cases, the bulge can burst, or hemorrhage, which causes bleeding in the brain. They frequently occur in the artery in the front of the brain that supplies oxygen-rich blood. A ruptured brain aneurysm is considered life-threatening and can result in a stroke, brain damage, or even death. Most brain aneurysms never rupture and do not cause symptoms. Estimates indicate that about 3 to 5 percent of Americans may develop a brain aneurysm in their lifetimes. About 30,000 brain aneurysms a year rupture.
While a diagnosis of a brain aneurysms might feel overwhelming, UTHealth Neurosciences has recognized experts in this condition who will guide you through every step of treatment. Our medical team takes great pride in its high success rates and will prioritize your care.
About the host: UTHealth Neurosciences leader Dr. Dong Kim is a neurosurgeon and Chair of the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at UTHealth. View his presentation of the signs, symptoms, risk factors and treatment options for brain aneurysms.
Causes of Brain Aneurysms
People can be born with a weak spot in an artery in their brains. Over time, the pounding of blood in the weak spot can expand into a sac that measures at least 50 percent of the blood vessel’s normal diameter. Researchers have identified genetic factors to help identify people at greatest risk of developing aneurysms. Patients with family members who have suffered aneurysms are at a higher risk, according to some studies.
High-blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, drug use, and cigarette smoking are considered risk factors for brain aneurysms. Injury and infection also increase risk. Brain aneurysms are more common in older adults and females.
Early Signs of a Brain Aneurysm
Small aneurysms are unlikely to cause symptoms. As an aneurysm expands, patients might experience pain above and behind an eye, a dilated pupil, vision changes or numbness on one side of their face. Aneurysms that are more than 10 millimeters have an increased risk of rupture.
A sudden, severe headache is the main symptom of a ruptured aneurysm. Other symptoms might include nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, facial pain, weakness, paralysis, and seizure. Drooping eyelids, confusion and visual irregularities, such as double or blurred vision, might also be noticed.
Every effort is made to diagnose and treat brain aneurysms before they bleed. A hemorrhage, or bleeding from a ruptured aneurysm, is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
Diagnosing a Brain Aneurysm
Brain aneurysms are often discovered after rupture or during diagnostic exams, including CT scans and MRIs, requested for other medical conditions. UTHealth Neurosciences uses advanced imaging tools to map the structure of the brain. Your neurological team may conduct an angiogram, where a doctor will inject dye into a blood vessel and take X-rays to identify aneurysms.
Treatment options vary based on several factors, including the size and location of the aneurysm. The goal will be to decrease the risk of hemorrhage or repeated bleeding.
Not all cerebral aneurysms require treatment. Your UTHealth Neurosciences medical team may decide to closely monitor a small aneurysm that does not present symptoms. Both unruptured and unruptured aneurysms might necessitate surgical treatment to clip or fill the abnormality.
Cutting-edge imaging technology can be used to map the aneurysm. Highly skilled doctors can then determine an approach that might include resection, clot retrieval, angioplasty, stenting, embolization, or radiosurgery.
With microvascular clipping, a surgeon will place a small piece of metal on the aneurysm to stop its blood supply. Using a less-invasive procedure, called coil embolization, a surgeon can insert a catheter into an artery in the groin and release coils, glue or mesh that will block the aneurysm, reducing the flow of blood to it.
What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences
At UTHealth Neurosciences, a team of cerebrovascular specialists will work together to determine the best treatment plan for each patient. With highly regarded specialists in each area, the goal of this approach is to help save our patients time and money. Most importantly, the collaboration can lead to better treatment plans and outcomes. When surgery is necessary, our neurosurgeons routinely use innovative minimally invasive techniques.
Throughout the treatment process, our team works closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care plan. While you are with us, you can expect top-notch care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.
- Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)
- Brain Aneurysm
- Moyamoya Disease
- Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.