Choose the health content that’s right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox.
Your brain is the most important organ in your body, always keeping your body, mind and spirit functioning and flowing. It’s unsettling to imagine a situation when your brain might need special — or emergency — care.
When you hear the words “brain aneurysm,” an alarm probably sounds in your head.
“Don’t worry — most brain aneurysms don’t cause symptoms or health problems,” reassures Ravi Gandhi, MD, medical director of the Neurovascular program at the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute . “You can enjoy a long life without ever realizing you have one.”
Rest assured we’re here to ease some of your concerns and walk you through everything you need to know about brain aneurysms, symptoms, risk factors, prevention and treatment options.
What Is a Brain Aneurysm?
“Cerebral (brain) aneurysms are bulging, weakened areas in the wall of a brain artery that create abnormal widening, ballooning or a fluid-filled internal blister,” explains Dr. Gandhi.
Think of an aneurysm like a balloon that is slowly filling up. As the pressure builds, the wall of the balloon thins and weakens. Similarly, as the blood builds up in the blood vessels in your brain the walls thin and weaken, creating an aneurysm.
The majority of brain aneurysms are small — less than four-tenths of an inch in diameter — and occur without any symptoms. These smaller aneurysms may not tear, but as the size of an aneurysm increases, so does the risk of rupture (tearing).
“When a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain, there is a significant risk to a person’s life,” says Dr. Gandhi. “Blood can accumulate in the brain and pressure builds; swelling and irritation can occur, too.”
There are two kinds of brain aneurysms:
- Saccular aneurysms: These are the most common type of brain aneurysm. They bulge out in a dome shape from the main artery.
- Fusiform aneurysms: These are not as common as saccular aneurysms. Instead of pouching out in a dome, they make a widened spot in the blood vessel.
What Are Brain Aneurysm Symptoms?
While most brain aneurysms don’t cause symptoms or health problems, it is important to be aware of the signs and seek medical care right away if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
- As an unruptured aneurysm grows it presses on nerves and tissues which can lead to the following symptoms:
- Dilated pupil
- Double vision or changes in vision
- Pain behind or above the eye
- Paralysis on one side of the face
A ruptured aneurysm brings a sudden and severe headache, as well as these other symptoms:
- Brief or prolonged loss of consciousness
- Double vision
- Light sensitivity
- Stiff neck
An aneurysm can leak a small amount of blood for several days or weeks before a rupture. This is also known as a sentinel bleed and can cause a warning headache.
What Are the Risks of Brain Aneurysms?
Dr. Gandhi emphasizes: “While brain aneurysms can happen suddenly to anyone, people with known risk factors should be aware of the symptoms so they can get the care they need, fast.”
Some recognized risk factors include:
- Family history of a brain aneurysm
- Cigarette/drug/alcohol use
- Having a prior head injury
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Age factors — Those most susceptible to brain aneurysms fall between the ages of 35-60
- Gender factors — Women have an increased risk of developing and rupturing brain aneurysms
How Can You Prevent Brain Aneurysm Ruptures?
Preventing brain aneurysms is not always possible, but you can lower your risk of rupturing them by not smoking and reducing high blood pressure. Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet with plates full of fruits and vegetables. Exercise regularly by taking walks or playing a sport you enjoy.
“By incorporating these healthy habits into your daily life, you can significantly reduce the chances of rupturing a brain aneurysm,” says Dr. Gandhi
How Does Endovascular Surgery Treat Brain Aneurysms?
Sometimes no matter how hard you work towards prevention, you may need to treat a leaking or ruptured brain aneurysm. At the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute, patients have access to a range of cerebral aneurysm treatments. The most common treatment is a minimally invasive procedure performed by a doctor specially trained in endovascular surgery.
“Endovascular surgery is a method of addressing cerebral aneurysms by threading a narrow catheter through an artery in the groin or arm up to the area in need. Surgical repair might use special platinum coil, a stent, or other devices. We are always staying up to date on the latest technology being released,” explains Dr. Gandhi.
Endovascular surgery doesn’t require opening of the skull and is often performed on an outpatient basis, reducing risks usually associated with a craniotomy.
Advantages of Endovascular Surgery
“At AdventHealth we are dedicated to providing compassionate care and that includes offering minimally invasive treatments that reduce recovery times so you can feel better and get back to your life as quickly as possible,” says Dr.Gandhi.
Here are other advantages to performing endovascular surgery:
- Performed using local or regional anesthesia instead of general anesthesia
- Less pain
- Fewer wound complications after surgery
- Less bleeding
- Less stress on the heart
Compassionate Care When You Need It Most
Our Neurovascular Program is here for you with world-class expertise right in your community. Our physicians are specially trained in endovascular surgery to handle the most complex patient cases using the most advanced techniques available. We’ll work tirelessly to heal your brain and help you feel whole again.
Click here to learn more about our comprehensive services and connect with a compassionate Care Coordinator who is available to help schedule appointments, explain treatment options and put you in touch with the right resources.