An aneurysm is a weakened area in a blood vessel that enlarges or “balloons.” When that happens, the vessel wall can burst, allowing blood to leak out and flow into other tissues, potentially damaging or destroying them. A cerebral (or brain) aneurysm is one that happens in a blood vessel of the brain. A ruptured cerebral aneurysm is a life-threatening medical emergency, as it can lead to stroke, brain damage, and even death.
All cerebral aneurysms have the potential to rupture, but many never do. However, the unruptured aneurysm may cause symptoms if it presses on nerves or brain tissue. There are no proven statistics of how many people develop cerebral aneurysms because they don’t always cause symptoms, but a consensus of scientific papers suggests between 3-5% of Americans develop an aneurysm in their lifetime. Approximately 30,000 Americans suffer a ruptured aneurysm each year.
At Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas, board-certified, multi-fellowship-trained neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Glickman and his team diagnose and treat cerebral aneurysms at their Nevada office. Because of the potential for life-threatening complications, they want their patients to be able to recognize possible symptoms of a cerebral aneurysm so they can seek medical help.
Aneurysms generally form at branch points in arteries because these are the weakest sections. Occasionally, they’re present from birth, usually because of an abnormality in an artery wall, though most begin over the age of 40.
In many cases, aneurysms develop due to inherited factors. Other risk factors develop over time and include:
Less common risk factors include head trauma, a brain tumor, or an infection in the arterial wall, often due to drug abuse.
In addition, hypertension, smoking, diabetes, and high cholesterol increase the risk of atherosclerosis (fatty buildup on the artery walls), which can increase the risk of developing a fusiform aneurysm, one that bulges out on all sides.
Not all aneurysms cause symptoms or rupture. Aneurysm size, location, and growth can increase the risk for rupture, as can certain underlying medical conditions.
Most cerebral aneurysms don’t cause symptoms until they either become very large or they rupture. A large aneurysm that grows steadily can press on tissues and nerves causing:
When an aneurysm ruptures, you experience a sudden and extremely severe headache, often described as the worst headache of your life. You may also develop:
If you develop a sudden severe headache, especially if it comes with any other symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. The sooner the bleed can be controlled, the less damage it will do.
Dr. Glickman treats patients with unruptured and ruptured cerebral aneurysms.
For unruptured aneurysms, he may recommend:
In some cases, lifestyle changes that include stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly, can lower your risk of a ruptured aneurysm.
For a ruptured aneurysm, the doctor may surgically implant a stent called a flow diversion device that directs blood flow away from the aneurysm so the artery can heal. It’s often used to treat very large aneurysms. He may also use medications such as anticonvulsants to prevent seizures or calcium-channel blockers to prevent stroke. If the aneurysm has ruptured and caused significant damage to brain tissue, you may require physical, speech, and occupational therapy.
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of an aneurysm, you need medical attention before it ruptures and causes irreversible damage. Give Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas a call at 702-929-8242 to set up an urgent consultation with Dr. Glickman, or book online with us today.