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​Brain Aneurysm (Cerebral Aneurysm)

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What is a Brain Aneurysm?

A brain or cerebral aneurysm is a cerebrovascular disorder that is caused when the wall of an artery in the brain becomes weak and balloons outward. The ballooned part of the artery is the aneurysm.

An aneurysm has thin walls and can leak or rupture easily. Aneurysms can form in many sizes and can rupture at any time.

Complications of a ruptured aneurysm

The rupturing of an aneurysm is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage and causes blood to leak into the fluid-filled space around the brain.

This bleeding is very dangerous and can cause:

  • Brain damage
  • Disability
  • Death

Treatment depends on the location of the aneurysm, and may include:

  • Microsurgical clipping
  • Endovascular surgery
  • Aneurysm coiling

UPMC neurosurgeons may recommend a combination of surgical and non-surgical approaches to treat aneurysms.

Diagnosing a Brain Aneurysm

Your doctor will perform several tests to diagnose a cerebral aneurysm and will ask about your symptoms.

Symptoms of a brain aneurysm

Symptoms may include:

  • Severe sudden headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Stiff neck
  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to light

Testing to diagnose a brain aneurysm

Your doctor will perform a CT scan of the head to look for blood in the brain.

If the CT scan does not show a problem, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) will be performed. The lumbar puncture determines whether there is blood in the cerebrospinal fluid. If blood is found in the cerebrospinal fluid, this means a subarachnoid hemorrhage has occurred.

When a subarachnoid hemorrhage is established, a CT angiogram (CTA) or catheter angiogram is performed to find the source of the bleed.

After the diagnostic tests are completed, your doctor will recommend the best treatment plan for you.

Brain Aneurysm Treatments

A ruptured brain aneurysm is a medical emergency and the clinical team will move quickly.

Treatment options may include:

Clip ligation surgery

During this surgery, a metal clip is placed at the base of the aneurysm to control the bleeding and to decrease the risk of more bleeding.

This procedure often requires a small craniotomy, which is the creation of a window in the skull. This allows the doctor to go around the brain with the help of endoscopes and microscopes to detect the aneurysm and clip it.

Aneurysm coiling surgery

Aneurysm coiling may be an option for suitable people. Coiling is used to block the blood vessel supplying blood to the area of the brain with the aneurysm.

Metal coils are placed in the aneurysm through a catheter that is inserted in the groin area. This surgery will prevent further bleeding.

Listen up: Unruptured Aneurysms
Listen to Dr. Robert Friedlander discuss unruptured aneurysm diagnosis and treatment on KDKA radio.

High Definition Fiber Tracking
UPMC and University of Pittsburgh researchers and doctors developed High Definition Fiber Tracking (HDFT) to help diagnose brain injuries and plan delicate surgery in the brain. Two patients share their stories of relief and rehabilitation.

Aneurysms
Dr. Robert M. Friedlander discusses treatment options for unruptured aneurysms at UPMC.

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