Surgical clipping a brain aneurysm

Neurosurgical clipping

Using a metal spring clip to isolate a swelling in a weak part of an artery supplying the brain — the swelling will collapse and any risk of bleeding will be removed

How is a brain aneurysm treated?

Most aneurysms in the brain are not symptomatic unless they bleed, but some are identified on brain scans performed for unrelated problems. If you are found to have an aneurysm in this way, treatment is not always needed, but if you have suffered a bleed it is normally recommended.

Most aneurysms are now treated with minimally invasive techniques performed via an injection into the main artery in the leg (femoral artery). Platinum coils may be injected into the aneurysm via the artery from which it arises, and sometimes an artificial sleeve (stent) is used to exclude the aneurysm from the circulation.

If open surgery is considered to be the best treatment, this is usually by placing a titanium metal spring clip across the aneurysm ‘neck’ where it arises from the artery. This prevents blood from entering into the aneurysm sac so that it can no longer pose a risk for bleeding. Once the aneurysm is clipped it will shrink and scar over. The clip is left permanently in place. As these clips are now all made of non-magnetic material (titanium), MRI scans will still be possible if needed in the future.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    You'll be put under general anaesthetic and made ready for surgery. The head is made secure so that it doesn't move during surgery. Depending on the location of your aneurysm, a cut is made either behind the hairline or on the back of the head. A small portion of the hair is usually shaved along the line of the cut. A section of the skull is removed using a specialised drill. This gives access to the lining over the brain, which is then opened to expose the brain surface. The surgeon approaches the aneurysm in the gap between the skull and the brain and not through brain tissue. It is clipped with a metal clip which looks similar in shape to a clothes peg.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Your neurosurgeon will explain the clipping procedure to you and answer any questions you might have. 

    A clipping of a brain aneurysm is carried out under general anaesthetic, which means you'll be asleep. As such, your consultant or nurse specialist will let you know how long you should avoid eating and drinking before surgery. You may also be asked to attend a nurse-led pre-assessment clinic.

    Aneurysm surgery is complex and there are potential risks as well as benefits. Your consultant will explain these to you.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    After the surgery, you'll be transferred to our recovery ward, where you’ll be looked after by a specialist team. Your neurosurgeon will explain your recovery time to you and when you can expect to get back to your usual routine. 

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From complex neurosurgery to neurological investigations and diagnostics, we provide exceptional neurosciences care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

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020 7079 4344
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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