Ohio State Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones died this week in Cleveland from a brain aneurtsm that ruptured while she was driving. She was taken to the Cleveland Clinic and was unable to recover. She was only 58 years old.
Brain aneurysms are little balloon type 'pockets' that are found in the arteries. Many are in the brain but can also be found around the heart or in the legs or other areas of the body.
It is thought that about 4% of people have aneurysms (based on autopsy statistics) which is pretty staggering. Most people don't even know they have an aneurysm and live with it. Unless it ruptures, they can live to be 100 and die of other causes. Aneurysms themselves are not fatal but if they rupture, they can be - and death can be fast. About 10% of people who have an aneurysm will experience a rupture.
WebMD has a question and answer session with Howard Kirshner, MD, professor and chairman of neurology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville. I thought I'd put it here, to educate us a little more about this mysterious but scary condition -
"What is a brain aneurysm?
"An [unruptured] aneurysm looks kind of like a balloon, an out-pouching of an artery," Kirshner says. "It almost always occurs at a point where the artery branches off."
While Tubbs Jones had a cerebral, or brain aneurysm; aneurysms can also occur in the aorta (the major artery from the heart), the leg, and other areas. Aneurysms are related to weaknesses in the blood vessel wall.
How common is a brain aneurysm?
''We think that many people have them -- up to 4% have it at autopsy," Kirshner says, citing research, but many show no symptoms. According to Kirshner, about 5% of people will develop a brain aneurysm during their lifetime, but only about 10% of them will experience a rupture.
As a crude estimate, he says, perhaps 25,000 to 50,000 people a year in the U.S. have a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm. Family history plays a role, experts believe. Family members of a patient with a brain aneurysm have an increased risk of having one. Yet only a small percentage of these are related to hereditary syndromes associated with aneurysms.
Women are more likely than men to have an aneurysm, and African-Americans have more risk of hemorrhage from an aneurysm than do whites.
What are the symptoms that an aneurysm has ruptured?
Aneurysms often go undetected because they can have no symptoms until they rupture and bleed. When that happens, it can cause a sudden severe headache and sometimes nothing more than that, Kirshner says. "But it is usually not like any other headache you've had. It is very sudden or severe, the worst headache of your life." Other symptoms include severe neck pain, dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to light.
One-third to nearly half of patients have minor hemorrhages or "warning leaks" that later lead to a severe devastating brain hemorrhage days later.
Sometimes, when an aneurysm ruptures, it can go unnoticed, with the person passing off the headache. But once it ruptures, Kirshner says, it is more likely to re-bleed.
Is there a typical age bracket for aneurysms to rupture?
"They are most common in middle age -- the 40s and 50s are the peak ages," he says. But they can happen at any age. "I've seen them in teenagers. They do occasionally occur in elderly people."
What can someone do to reduce the risk of an aneurysm growing and rupturing?
"Not smoking and treating hypertension prevent aneurysms from growing and rupturing," Kirshner says.
In general, what is the outlook for someone whose brain aneurysm bursts?
The prognosis, Kirshner says, "is very uncertain." A ruptured aneurysm can cause sudden death, he says. In general, "if you are in bad shape right in the beginning, the odds of recovery are much lower." The overall death rate once the aneurysm ruptures is about 40%, he says.
What might be done when the rupture is discovered?
Getting treatment as soon as possible is critical, he says. If it's possible to do surgery, one option is to go in surgically and put a clip across the aneurysm to stop bleeding. "An even more common surgery is to go through the artery and deploy a coil [into the aneurysm, using a tiny catheter] and the coil causes the aneurysm to shut off." The coil causes a clot to form around the sac, sealing off the aneurysm defect."
If anyone has anything to add or had their own experience, I'd love to hear it!
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Add a Comment96 Comments
I had a brain aneurysm in 1990 at the age of 9. Am now 36. They clipped the bleed.
I've had scans throughout the years and aside from scar tissue or atrophy I've had no other serious issues.
I suffer from headaches and often wonder if something else is going on in there.
Over the last 6 months I've experienced more severe peircing pain and headaches all around my head.
My doctor has decided to send me for an MRI (last one was 4 years ago)
Fingers crossed everything is ok.
TerriAugust 28, 2017 - 12:09am
I had an anurysim in 2012 I was told the headache I felt then, is now called a thunder clap headache. while having the headache I heard the ocean in my head and it was the blood rushing in my head. I went to the emergency room got treated for a migraine, day 2 different hospital same treatment, day 3 same hospital as day 1 migraine treatment again, day 4 diffrent hospital, they sent me to my Dr. appointment she sent me in for an MRI with contrast they took me back to the hospital I just came from and they treated me like a real patient. stayed in the Hospital for 3 more days and released! wish I would have known about this before it happened I would have been able to get in to see someone who could have helped me right away! but now I know I have 4 more waiting!May 4, 2019 - 6:58pm
Can an unruptured anerurysm be seen in a ct scan?June 15, 2017 - 6:39pm
They have to do a Angiogram to see them.June 23, 2017 - 11:21am
My mom died suddenly from a brain aneurysm on June 15, 2016. I was in Orlando, Florida with my husband, son, his new fiance (they got engaged on our trip), my dad, and step mom. My mom had been unsteady for a few months and even had a fall. She had been seeing a doctor and going through various tests. The last day I saw her alive was June 9, 2016. She said she was a bit dizzy and I said she needed to see a doctor. She agreed to go when I got back (it was becoming normal for her to be unsteady and dizzy). Half way through our trip I got a call from my brother saying my mom had died. My step father called home on his way home from work with no answer. He knew something was wrong. He found her face down on the tile already deceased. She had a really good day before she passed. She actually told her sister that she no longer had any worries and everyone was going to be okay. She sat down to enjoy her favorite meal and passed in her chair before actually eating. She eventually fell to the floor. The coroner said she was probably gone in seconds. I struggle with the loss of her and the suddenness of her passing. Aneurysms can be cruel. The coroner said if she would have survived, she wouldn't have a quality life. I mourn her every day but am glad she did not suffer. I say this as I cannot sleep tonight because memories of her are so vivid today. God Bless.November 13, 2016 - 11:14pm
Soooo sorry,,, iam a 53 yesrbold msn in jersey.. ill be 54 on the 35 of this month,, today is saterday.. 2 more days.. this mounday is my surgery... i have 2 on my righr brain sn 2 on my left brain,,hebis only foin my right side ... 9 mm ana 5 mm,,,, he has to go threw my skull,,funny thing .. my girl is a doctore,, she thought it was my M.S. nope ... had headaches everyday for like 8 months.. then i hear a high pitch in my head from the time i wake up,, to the time i go to bed!!! I seen Neurologist ,,, you know your body!! I new this wasnt becsuse of my M.S. Thank god i was checked out!!!! My advice to all,, you know your body better then anyone!! Get help!!!! Hod bless you sn your fsmily!!! U only have 1 mom in this worid!May 6, 2017 - 9:06am
I am so sorry for your loss. I too lost my mother to a ruptured brain aneurysm. She had a birthday and was suppose to watch my son as it was Christmas break for school, 3 days before Christmas. She didn't answer the phone so I just went there with my 10 year old son at the time, it was 2010, and we found her on the floor. She was already gone. It was so sudden. She did have hypertension but she never complained of headaches. However, she did frequently speak of her legs hurting bad. I just told her she should get out more and move around because she was a homebody. I hurt everyday because I should have insisted she make the doctors do test for her leg pain. Intstead, they just prescribed pain medication for her every 30 days for about a year. I really miss her. It does get a little easier everyday but I don't think the pain ever goes away. I just find comfort in knowing she didn't suffer long according to the coroner. And she had strong faith. Once again, I am so sorry for your loss.April 6, 2017 - 9:14pm
Hi,I'm so sorry for the loss of your mom. My mom also just died of a brain aneryism on Sept 16th. I can't believe how fast this happened. My heart is broken.October 14, 2017 - 5:31pm
I had a ruptured aneurysm March 17 2016. I had been experiencing very bad headaches, left ear ache, headache behind left eye for a couple of months prior. On the day of the rupture, I passed out in the shower and family was right there and called 911. I lost consciousness briefly but do not remember a whole month as I was sent via ambulance to hospital (took about 2 hours from initial scan til arrival to trauma hospital). I was one of the lucky 12 1/2 percent who survived with no devastating ill effects, have a little vision problem and balance problem but everything works and brain function just fine. I had no really bad headache all of a sudden like everyone else seems to have, instead just passed out. I was treated at UW Madison - excellent trauma team and doctor - diagnosis SAH. For a doctor to say there is no hope, it is my personal opinion that that is not an option, maybe the skills of the doctor who said this are lacking, I cannot understand how a doctor could say this as if my doctor could have said this, I would be dead. My aneurysm was clipped. Don't ever let a doctor say there's no hope, they should at least try ?????August 23, 2016 - 3:40am
My son just had a rupture aneurysm like a month and a few days. I would never think that this could have happend to my son. He is only 19 years old. He still at the hospital. Doctors said that he will never be the same.November 6, 2018 - 4:30pm