- Warning Signs/Symptoms
- Overview – Brain aneurysm
- About brain aneurysms
- How to Recognize Brain Aneurysm Symptoms
- What Is a Brain Aneurysm?
- Symptoms to Know
- Causes of Aneurysms
- What Should You Do if You Think You Have an Aneurysm?
- The Outlook
- Peripheral Aneurysm
- Causes of a peripheral aneurysm
- Symptoms of a peripheral aneurysm
- Why choose Ohio State for peripheral aneurysm treatment?
- How Ohio State diagnoses peripheral aneurysm
- How Ohio State treats peripheral aneurysm
- What is The Difference Between An Aneurysm And A Stroke?
- What is a stroke?
- What is an aneurysm?
- What causes aneurysms?
- What are the symptoms of aneurysm?
- How do you treat an aneurysm?
- How can aneurysms be prevented?
- Stay healthy, and get yourself checked
- Brain Aneurysm Awareness
- About Brain Aneurysms
- Brain Aneurysm Basics
- Understanding the Brain
- Warning Signs/Symptoms
- Statistics and Facts
- Causes/Risk Factors
- Unruptured Aneurysm Basics
- Ruptured Aneurysm Basics
- Pediatric Aneurysms
- Diagnosis and Screening
- Screening: Familial Aneurysms
- Unruptured Aneurysms
- Ruptured Aneurysms
- Surgical Treatment: Clipping
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- Advances in Endovascular Treatment
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About brain aneurysms
The medical term for an aneurysm that develops inside the brain is an intracranial or cerebral aneurysm.
Most brain aneurysms only cause noticeable symptoms if they burst (rupture).
This leads to an extremely serious condition known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage, where bleeding caused by the ruptured aneurysm can cause extensive brain damage and symptoms.
- a sudden agonising headache – it’s been described as a “thunderclap headache”, similar to a sudden hit on the head, resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
- a stiff neck
- sickness and vomiting
- pain on looking at light
About 3 in 5 people who have a subarachnoid haemorrhage die within 2 weeks.
Half of those who survive are left with severe brain damage and disability.
Find out more about the symptoms of a brain aneurysm
A ruptured brain aneurysm is a medical emergency.
If you think someone has had a brain haemorrhage that could be caused by a ruptured aneurysm, call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.
How to Recognize Brain Aneurysm Symptoms
An intense headache may be concerning if you don’t usually have headaches. Some people may even think they’re are having brain aneurysm symptoms. While this is possible, brain aneurysms are really not very common. They affect up to 3 and 5 million people in the United States, but less than 3 percent of these people experience any bleeding in the brain. That being said, brain aneurysms can cause serious injury to the brain, so it’s important to know what they are and what to look for.
What Is a Brain Aneurysm?
An aneurysm is a spot on your blood vessel wall that has stretched and bulged out, causing a weak spot. When this occurs in a blood vessel in the brain, it’s called a brain aneurysm or a cerebral aneurysm.
Most people with brain aneurysms have no symptoms. They may never find out they have a brain aneurysm, or it may be found by accident when their brain is scanned for some other reason.
Symptoms to Know
About 0.5 percent to 3 percent of people with brain aneurysms do develop bleeding. The aneurysm may slowly leak blood, or the aneurysm may rupture and cause a sudden flow of blood into the brain. There is no way of telling which aneurysms will burst and which will not.
The most common symptom of a leaking aneurysm is a sudden and severe headache. Brain aneurysm symptoms indicative of a ruptured aneurysm include many that are similar to stroke symptoms:
- Sudden, severe headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Visual disturbances
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of consciousness
- Slurry speech or difficulty speaking
Causes of Aneurysms
Doctors aren’t sure why brain aneurysms develop, but they do know that some people are at higher risk of having one than others. For example, brain aneurysms usually affect people over the age of 40, rarely younger, and more women have brain aneurysms than men. A few other risk factors are:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Family history of aneurysms
- Congenital abnormality in the blood vessel wall, which means you were born with it
- Using drugs, most commonly cocaine
- Brain tumor or traumatic brain injury
If you have a brain aneurysm, there are also risk factors that increase the chances of the aneurysm rupturing. They include:
- Being of African-American or Hispanic descent
- Having high blood pressure
What Should You Do if You Think You Have an Aneurysm?
If you have a family history of brain aneurysms or you feel like you may have one, speak with your doctor about your concerns. To detect a brain aneurysm, you would have to have a brain scan that allows your doctor to see the blood vessels in your brain as the blood shows through. Possible types of brain scans include:
- Computed tomographic angiography (CTA): This type of brain scan follows dye that was injected into your vein as it travels through the blood vessels in your brain.
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA): An MRA is similar to a CT scan, but while a CT scan uses radiation similar to X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging machines use magnetic and radio waves to make the images on a screen.
- Diagnostic cerebral angiography (DCA): Although a DCA can detect smaller aneurysms than a CTA or MRA can, this test is not usually a first choice as it is an invasive procedure. A small incision is made in your groin so your doctor can insert a long catheter (thin tube) that is threaded up to your neck and your brain. A dye is injected through the catheter, and X-rays are taken of your brain as the dye flows through the blood vessels.
A ruptured brain aneurysm is an emergency. Surgery to stop the bleeding by clipping the blood vessel or a bypass are the usual treatments.
If the aneurysm hasn’t ruptured, your options vary:
- Medical and lifestyle: If you have high blood pressure, managing your blood pressure is an important part of reducing your risk of a rupture. Not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising can all help reduce the risk as well. You may also be told to avoid stimulants, like caffeine, and strenuous activity.
- Embolization: Using a catheter inserted through your groin, your doctor inserts small metal coils or an embolic agent (similar to a glue) to protect the wall and stop the bleeding.
- Surgery: This procedure is similar to surgery to repair a ruptured aneurysm.
Learning you have a brain aneurysm can be frightening. If you have received this news, it’s important to speak with your doctor about your options and what you can do to minimize your risk of complications.
Peripheral aneurysms develop in arteries other than the aorta (the largest artery in your body). Peripheral aneurysms most commonly develop in the popliteal artery, which runs down the lower part of your thigh and knee. Though not as common, peripheral aneurysms can also develop in the:
- Femoral artery (located in the groin)
- Carotid artery (located in the neck)
- Arteries in the arms
- Arteries supplying blood to the kidneys or bowel (a visceral aneurysm)
Peripheral aneurysms are not as likely to rupture as aortic aneurysms. More often, blood clots develop that may block blood flow to your arms, legs or brain.
Causes of a peripheral aneurysm
The specific cause of a peripheral aneurysm is not clear; injury, infection and aging can be factors. Researchers believe that atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) plays an important role. Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up on the artery walls, narrowing them and slowing blood flow. Risk factors that contribute to atherosclerosis include:
- Family history of heart or vascular disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Many of these risk factors can be reduced or eliminated by changing your lifestyle.
If a peripheral aneurysm is found in one leg, you are at greater risk of having one in the other leg. Peripheral aneurysm also increases your risk of aortic aneurysm.
Symptoms of a peripheral aneurysm
Most people do not feel any symptoms with a peripheral aneurysm, especially if it is small. The warning signs that you may have an aneurysm depend on where it is and its size. Symptoms may include:
- A throbbing lump you can feel in your neck, leg, arm or groin
- Claudication (cramping in the legs with exercise)
- Leg or arm pain even at rest
- Sores on your fingers or toes that will not heal
- Numbness or pain that radiates in your leg or arm
- Gangrene (tissue death)
Why choose Ohio State for peripheral aneurysm treatment?
The vascular surgeons at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center have extensive experience with traditional open repair of aneurysms, including repair of complex cases. They are also expert at minimally invasive repairs, and have experience in the use of all of the available stent graft technologies available to treat a wide variety of aneurysms. Ohio State’s participation in national clinical trials helps direct the development of the next generation of stent grafts for the treatment of aneurysms.
How Ohio State diagnoses peripheral aneurysm
Tests your physician can use to confirm whether you have an aneurysm include:
- CT scan (computed tomography scan, also called CAT scan) – An imaging procedure that uses X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional, detailed images of the body, including bones, muscles, fat and organs
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – A noninvasive, sophisticated imaging procedure that uses large magnets and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures inside the body
- Ultrasound – A test that uses high-frequency sound waves to evaluate blood flow in a vessel
How Ohio State treats peripheral aneurysm
A peripheral aneurysm requires surgical repair because of the risk of a sudden blockage or a dislodged clot obstructing blood flow. If the aneurysm is small and you have no symptoms, your physician will monitor its size to determine when surgery is needed.
There are generally two types of aneurysm repair surgeries:
- Endovascular repair makes use of a catheter that guides a stent graft through small incisions in the groin. The graft is inserted into the aneurysm and seals the aneurysm from within.
- Open surgical repair of a peripheral aneurysm may be recommended if the aneurysm anatomy does not allow for endovascular repair. In this procedure, the damaged area is removed and replaced with a graft (tube).
If a blood clot is blocking the aneurysm, thrombolytic therapy (the use of drugs to dissolve or break up blood clots) may be used before surgery.
Peripheral Aneurysm Symptoms and Diagnosis
Most peripheral aneurysms occur in the popliteal artery, which runs down the back of your lower thigh and knee. Having a peripheral aneurysm in one leg increases the risk that you will also have one in your other leg. Less frequently, peripheral aneurysms can develop in the:
- femoral artery of your groin
- carotid artery in your neck
- arteries in your arms
Two out of three patients with a peripheral aneurysm do not notice any particular symptoms. Symptoms that are noticed may vary, depending on the location and size of your aneurysm, and may include:
- A pulsating lump that you can feel in your neck, arm or leg
- Leg or arm pain, or cramping, with exercise
- Leg or arm pain at rest
- Painful sores on toes or fingers
- Radiating pain or numbness in your arm or leg, caused by nerve compression
- Numbness or weakness on one side of your face or body
- Gangrene (dead tissue), which results from a severe blockage in the artery in a limb
Transient Ischemic Attack
If an aneurysm develops in the carotid artery, symptoms can include transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke. A TIA occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is briefly interrupted.
TIA symptoms, which usually occur suddenly, are similar to those of stroke but only last for a few minutes up to 24 hours:
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Confusion or difficulty in talking or understanding speech
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Difficulty with walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history of heart or vascular disease
- Age: Most people diagnosed with peripheral aneurysms are in their 60s and 70s
- Gender: Abdominal aortic aneurysms and aneurysms of the leg arteries occur more frequently in males.
A peripheral aneurysm also increases the chances of having an aortic aneurysm. Researchers believe that atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries, which occurs as plaque builds up) is associated with many peripheral aneurysms, as is the case for many aortic aneurysms.
In most cases, peripheral aneurysms are detected by chance during a routine physical exam or on an imaging exam ordered for another reason. As part of a routine checkup, your physician may look for an aneurysm in your groin or thigh.
Tests to help confirm whether you have a peripheral aneurysm include:
- CT scan
An aneurysm is an enlarged part of a blood vessel. They’re important to discover, because they may become larger over time. That growth increases the chance that the blood vessel will burst.
To figure out if what you’re feeling is an aneurysm, your doctor will ask you questions, including whether another member of your family has had one. Then, she’ll give you a complete exam, during which she’ll:
- Listen to your heart
- Check your blood pressure
- Listen to the arteries in your neck
- Feel your abdomen for a mass
If your doctor thinks you have an aneurysm in your aorta, the main artery in your body, you may get an ultrasound test so she can see if there is one. This is painless and can pinpoint and measure an aneurysm. If she thinks one is in your chest, you might get a CT scan to look at it more closely.
If your doctor is concerned that you have one in your brain, you may get a CT scan or an invasive test called an angiogram. During this, dye is injected into an artery in an arm or leg and travels to your brain. A picture of your brain is then taken. The dye will make it easier for your doctor to see any problems.
An MRI can also be used to check your aorta or blood vessels in your brain.
What is The Difference Between An Aneurysm And A Stroke?
Thursday, July 13th, 2017
Strokes and aneurysms are similar in some ways, but also different. While both have potentially disabling consequences because they directly affect the brain, strokes and aneurysms have different symptoms and are caused by separate events.
Both strokes and aneurysms are serious conditions. Knowing more about them prepares you to understand and identify the symptoms faster so you can get medical help quickly.
What is a stroke?
A stroke happens if blood flow to the brain is compromised. This often occurs when a blood clot blocks one of the veins in the brain. Without oxygen (which is carried by blood), brain cells begin to die, compromising cognitive functions in that specific area of the brain, which could include motor control, memory, language, and more.
Strokes by a blood clot are called ischemic attacks. But another type of stroke is caused by blood making its way out of the veins and flowing uncontrollably (hemorrhagic).
What is an aneurysm?
On brain imaging, aneurysms appear as a bulge and can look like a berry hanging on a stem. This is a blood vessel ballooning with blood because the vein is blocked or obstructed higher up.
If this bulge (aneurysm) bursts, blood enters and damages the brain. When this happens, it is referred to as a hemorrhagic stroke. While brain aneurysms are less frequent than ischemic strokes, they are more deadly.
Most aneurysms happen between the brain itself and the tissues separating it from your skull; this is called the subarachnoid space. Therefore, this kind of aneurysm is termed subarachnoid hemorrhage.
While most aneurysms don’t actually burst, the bulging blood vessel creates pressure and displaces other tissues and cells, creating symptoms. These are often found while testing for different conditions or looking for a cause of the symptoms. When an unruptured aneurysm is found, it usually gets treatment, depending on its location and severity. This can prevent a dangerous rupture down the road.
What causes aneurysms?
Aneurysms can have a genetic component, which makes you more prone to develop them. But the direct causes of aneurysms are the hardening of your arteries (atherosclerosis) and aging.
Although aneurysms can happen to anyone, there are several factors that increase your risk of developing them.
- Family history. This is the genetic component of aneurysm risk. If there is a history of the condition in your family, there is a higher chance that you will also develop aneurysms.
- Previous aneurysm. If you’ve already had one aneurysm, you are at higher risk of developing more in the future.
- Gender. Statistics show that women are more at risk of developing aneurysms or subarachnoid hemorrhage.
- Ethnicity. African-Americans tend to have more subarachnoid hemorrhage than people of European descent.
- High blood pressure. Having a high blood pressure condition increases your risk of developing subarachnoid hemorrhage.
- Smoking. If you smoke, not only are you at greater risk of having high blood pressure-related aneurysms, but they are also more likely to burst.
What are the symptoms of aneurysm?
Small, unruptured aneurysms tend to cause no noticeable symptoms. But if the aneurysm leaks or bursts, symptoms appear.
A small leak may cause a sudden, severe headache—but that’s usually the only sign. However, a small leak almost always precedes a bigger leak or rupture later on. The most common symptom of a ruptured aneurysm is a headache; survivors often talk about it being “the worst headache in their life.”
Other possible symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stiff neck
- Double or blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Drooping eyelid
- Fainting, loss of consciousness
If you are with someone who complains of a sudden, very painful headache, you should call 911 or your local emergency number right away. This is the most common symptom of a leaking or ruptured aneurysm. This symptom is also the one thing that can easily differentiate a common stroke from an aneurysm. Since the aneurysm is more deadly than a stroke, medical professionals need this information.
How do you treat an aneurysm?
Two treatment methods are used to treat aneurysms. Both involve sealing the blood vessel that has ruptured.
The first method is called surgical clipping. The surgeon removes a part of your skull to access the ruptured blood vessel and uses a small metal clip to stop the blood from flowing through the rupture.
A less invasive method, called endovascular coiling, involves slipping a tube in an artery (usually accessed in the groin) and threading it throughout your body to the aneurysm. Then, the surgeon pushes a metal coil in the affected vein, effectively sealing the aneurysm.
These procedures are common for ruptured aneurysms; however, their risks often outweigh their benefits when it comes to unruptured aneurysms. Different options are available for unruptured aneurysms.
How can aneurysms be prevented?
Although there are no one-hundred-percent-sure ways to prevent aneurysms or strokes, you can reduce your risk by controlling risk factors.
The most important thing to prevent aneurysms is to watch out for high blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a good diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and exercising regularly are all easy ways to avoid high blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with a high blood pressure problem, make sure to take your medication as directed by your physician.
Avoid anything that can suddenly increase your blood pressure, like straining while lifting heavy weights or drinking too much caffeine. Both these things can make your blood pressure spike, adding to your risk of aneurysm.
Stay healthy, and get yourself checked
The best way to avoid aneurysms and strokes is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to visit your doctor regularly. Be aware of major risk factors like smoking, which plays into both conditions as it promotes both atherosclerosis and blood clots.
Remember to visit your doctor at least once a year, and contact them whenever you have symptoms that worry you.
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the Saebo website is solely at your own risk.