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About 5 percent of people have a brain aneurysm, in which the wall of the blood vessel is weakened and either bulges or balloons out, according to MedlinePlus. The weakening of the blood vessel’s wall can occur because of conditions present at birth or factors developed later in life.
For many people, a cerebral aneurysm does not cause symptoms or rupture. But if an aneurysm in the brain is large enough and puts pressure on nearby nerves or brain tissue, patients can have symptoms. Symptoms may also occur if the brain aneurysm leaks or ruptures.
If a brain aneurysm does rupture, bleeding in the brain, or a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs, which is life-threatening. The MayoClinic.com noted that in most cases, the ruptured brain aneurysm occurs in an area between the brain and the tissue that covers the brain, a condition called a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Diagnosing a Brain Aneurysm
To diagnose a brain aneurysm, a physician may use several exams. Brain scans may be used to determine where in the brain the aneurysm is located. These may include a CT scan or MRI. Another option is a cerebral angiography, which detects how blood flows in the person’s brain, which can help the physician figure out where the cerebral aneurysm is and how big it is.
The physician may order an electroencephalogram (EEG), which maps the brain’s electrical activity. If the patient has symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm but a brain scan does not show bleeding, the physician may order a cerebrospinal fluid test, which can detect red blood cells in the cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
Treatments for a Brain Aneurysm
If the physician determines that the patient has an aneurysm in the brain, the next step will be choosing the appropriate treatment. If the cerebral aneurysm is small, such as smaller than 3 mm, the physician may recommend waiting for surgery, as it is less likely to rupture, according to MedlinePlus. But even if a patient is not having symptoms, the physician may recommend treatment to prevent a life-threatening rupture later.
Surgical Options to Repair a Brain Aneurysm