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Brain aneurysm

Intracranial aneurysm

An abnormal weak spot on a blood vessel wall that causes bulging like a balloon, usually where the artery divides and branches

About

Aneurysms can develop in any blood vessel in your body but the brain (cerebral) arteries are affected in approximately 1% of the population. Individuals are not born with arterial aneurysms, they arise during life and the risk factors include smoking and high blood pressure. Other diseases such as polycystic kidneys can also play a role.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of brain aneurysm icon plus

    Most brain aneurysms only cause symptoms if they rupture. This is a medical emergency. Symptoms may include an excruciating headache, which comes on suddenly and is associated with:

    • neck pain
    • nausea and/or vomiting
    • numbness or weakness in one side of your face and/or body
    • dizziness and/or disorientation
    • cute sensitivity to light
     
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your consultant will perform some, or all, of the following tests to confirm a diagnosis:

    • MRI scan. This is usually used to detect brain aneurysms that have not ruptured, but is also used to look at the arteries in detail (MR angiogram).
    • CT scan. This is usually the preferred type of scan if there is a history suggestive of haemorrhage. CT scans within 3 days of a bleed are very reliable at detecting blood. 
    • Angiography (digital subtraction — DSA). This involves injecting contrast into the arteries of your brain through a catheter (narrow tube) to give clear pictures of the brain arteries.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    • Monitoring with MRI scans at yearly intervals, if the aneurysm has not burst and is considered low-risk (normally under 5mm in diameter).
    • Coiling or stenting of the aneurysm using minimally invasive radiology techniques.
    • Clipping. Increasingly this is not necessary but sometimes remains the best option for treatment. A titanium spring clip is placed across the ‘neck’ of the aneurysm where it arises from the parent artery, so it can no longer fill, removing the risk of a future bleed.
     
Consultant in theatres

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From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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