A brain aneurysm is an abnormal bulging or protruding of one of the arteries inside the brain. It is a medical condition that is characterised by abnormal widening or ballooning of a blood vessel in the brain, which has weakened over time. It mainly develops at the junctions of the large arteries present at the base of the brain, in a region called the Circle of Willis. When the blood vessel gets ruptured, it causes bleeding into the brain or the space closely surrounding it (called the subarachnoid space), thereby, leading to a subarachnoid haemorrhage. It can be life-threatening and one should seek immediate medical attention. However, most of them remain small and never become an issue and usually get detected during tests for other conditions.
Causes of brain aneurysm
A brain aneurysm is an acquired problem i.e., it is not present from birth but develops over time. However, some of the probable causes are:
- Neurofibromatosis: Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder of the nervous system that dominantly affects the growth and development of neural or nerve cell tissues that causes tumours to grow on the nerve.
- Tobacco Consumption: Chewing tobacco or smoking is another factor that primarily increases the risk of this disorder. In fact, studies show that non-smokers have nearly 10 times more potential to sustain a rupture than a smoker.
- High Blood Pressure: The risk of subarachnoid haemorrhage or rupture is more in people with a history of high blood pressure (hypertension).
- High Cholesterol: Although the effect of high cholesterol remains unclear, some studies show that it can also lead to the rupturing of the aneurysm.
- Alcohol Abuse: Moderate to high level of alcohol abuse is another factor contributing to a rupture.
Usually there are no symptoms however, some of the probable ones are given below:
Diagnosis of brain aneurysm
The diagnosis generally includes the following tests:
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: To detect bleeding in the brain.
- Computed Tomography Angiogram (CTA) scan: To locate the actual site of the aneurysm.
- Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): To obtain images or pictures of blood vessels.
- Cerebral Angiogram: It is an X-ray test, employed to locate small (less than 5 mm) aneurysms.
The treatment involves repairing the affected blood vessels. Coil embolisation and surgical clipping are the two main surgeries used to cure this disorder. Coil embolisation is a procedure in which a small tube is inserted into the affected artery. Tiny metal coils are then moved through the tube into the aneurysm, thereby easing pressure and reducing its probability to rupture. This procedure is less invasive and more effective than surgical clipping. Surgical clipping is another method, where a tiny metal clip is placed around the base of the aneurysm to isolate it from normal blood circulation. It also relieves the pressure and keeps it from rupturing.
A brain aneurysm can be life-threatening, if left untreated for long. The main dangers are suffering from a stroke or in extreme cases, death, especially if it ruptures and bleeds. However, its survival rates can increase by immediate hospitalisation and early detection. Potential blood vessel spasms need to be controlled with medications as soon as possible.