Brain Aneurysm: The Symptoms and Treatment

Cerebral or brain aneurysm is the anomalous broadening or ballooning of a portion of an artery or vein within the brain. A loop of arteries situated at the base of the brain called the Circle of Willis, are responsible for maintaining the supply of blood and nourishment to this organ. The probability of the occurrence of a brain aneurysm is heightened at those locations where these arteries intersect; this can be attributed to the weakening of the blood vessels at such points. The larger the ballooning the greater is the possibility of it rupturing and bleeding out into the brain.

Etiology

Medical professionals have been studying the causes of a brain aneurysm and have outlined the following possibilities:

  • Congenital (hereditary) deformity of the blood vessels
  • Head trauma or injury
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis (accumulation of fat in arteries)

Brain aneurysm rarely affects children and is most common in adults; it has a greater tendency to strike in women than in men.

Symptoms

A headache is the most discernable symptom of a brain aneurysm. Patients are often known to complain of experiencing the ‘worst headache of their life’. This occurs typically when the aneurysm bursts. This may also be accompanied by:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Neck stiffness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Variation in mental condition
  • Seizures

Prior to this the individual may be unaware that he has an aneurysm. It has been seen that almost half of the people with a ruptured aneurysm will suffer a warning (sentinel) headache a couple of days or even weeks (average of 2 weeks) preceding the break open of the vessel.

Some people may suffer from symptoms linked to an expanding, unbroken aneurysm. These include:

  • Dilated pupil in one eye
  • Visual field deficiencies
  • Incapability to move one eye in all possible directions
  • Experiencing pain or discomfort above or behind an eye

Treatment

Surgical clipping or coiling techniques are majorly used in the treatment of brain aneurysms. It is essential to note that not all aneurysms are amenable to both forms of treatment. Consulting a neurologist is of extreme importance.

Clipping:

The surgeon reaches the aneurysm by cutting out a portion of the skull (craniotomy) and then locates the injured blood vessel and inserts a clip across the aneurysm. This obstructs blood from entering the aneurysm and then leaking out, or incases of an un-ruptured aneurysm, stunts its growth.

Endovascular Coiling or Coil Embolization:

This treatment approach involves inserting a catheter into the femoral artery (in the patient’s leg) and steering it through the vascular system, into the brain and finally into the aneurysm. Small platinum coils are lined through the catheter and placed into the aneurysm, jamming blood flow into the aneurysm and preventing a fissure. This minimally invasive procedure can be performed under general anaesthesia.

Both options come with the risk of leading to more bleeding, damaging brain tissue, causing spasms, barricading blood supply and produce a stroke.


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