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What is Brain (Cerebral) Aneurysm? Print E-mail
Written by Amanda Wattson, MD   
Thursday, 08 October 2009
A cerebral aneurysm is an abnormal swelling of a blood vessel wall inside the brain.
What is going on in the body?

A cerebral aneurysm is an area where a blood vessel in the brain weakens. As a result, the vessel wall balloons out. This results from defects in the elastic layer of the blood vessel wall. Aneurysms usually form where arteries branch. The vessel wall is sometimes weaker at this branch. When pulsating blood pushes this area of weakness outward, an aneurysm forms. Over time, the aneurysm may balloon and thin the wall so much that it ruptures.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Aneurysms are often congenital. That means a person is born with them. As the person gets older, the aneurysm may get larger. High blood pressure and atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries, can further weaken the blood vessel walls. This may lead to an aneurysm, particularly in the elderly. Although rare, sometimes an aneurysm can be caused by an infection in the blood. The infection can lodge in the vessel wall and weaken it.

The first rupture of an aneurysm may lead to stroke, permanent disability, or death. Recurring bleeding and blood vessel spasm may also lead to death.

What are the treatments for the condition?

The best treatment for an aneurysm varies from person to person. Surgery to repair the aneurysm is quite risky. The American Heart Association, called the AHA, has issued guidelines for treatment of unruptured aneurysms.

The AHA guidelines advise the doctor to look at three factors when choosing the treatment plan:
- the size of the aneurysm
- the person's age
- the person's life expectancy

Younger people are usually good candidates for surgery. For older persons with an unruptured aneurysm, the AHA guidelines recommend to wait and watch. The aneurysm can be monitored with regular cranial CT scans or cranial MRIs.

A craniotomy is a type of brain surgery that is used to repair an aneurysm. With the most common type, a metal clip is used to close off the aneurysm at its base. Medicines may be used to control high blood pressure or to treat problems with blood clotting.
What are the side effects of the treatments?

Side effects vary, depending on the treatment chosen. Medicines can cause allergic reactions and problems with blood clotting. Surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to the anesthesia.

Even if the person survives surgery, he or she can be left with permanent disabilities, including personality problems, weakness, or fatigue.
What happens after treatment for the condition?

A person with significant disabilities may need rehab therapy on a long-term basis. This may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

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