Aneurysm in the brain

An "aneurysm" is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a section of a blood vessel. When an aneurysm occurs in the brain, it is called a cerebral aneurysm.

Alternative Names

Aneurysm - cerebral; Cerebral aneurysm

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Aneurysms in the brain occur when there is a weakened area in the wall of a blood vessel. They may occur as a congenital defect or may develop later in life. A saccular aneurysm (berry aneurysm) can vary in size from a few millimeters to over a centimeter. Giant berry aneurysms can reach well over 2 cm. The aneurysm resembles a sack of blood attached to one side of the blood vessel by a narrow neck. These are more common in adults. Multiple berry aneurysms are not unusual. About 25% of patients have more than one aneurysm. They can occur in any blood vessel which supplies the brain, but they are most often seen in the large arteries at the base of the brain. Berry aneurysms are associated with polycystic kidney disease and coarctation of the aorta . Rarely, berry aneurysm can run in families. Other types of cerebral aneurysm may involve widening (dilatation) of the entire circumference of the blood vessel in an area, or may appear as a ballooning out of part of a blood vessel. These types of aneurysms can occur in any blood vessel which supplies the brain. Trauma and infection, causes for injury to the blood vessel wall, are two reasons which lead to the development of these types of aneurysm. Symptoms usually do not appear until complications develop. Bleeding is the most common cause of symptoms, with subarachnoid hemorrhage being the usual type of bleed. Weakness , numbness , or other loss of nerve function (neurologic deficits) may occur because of pressure from the aneurysm on adjacent brain tissue or because of reduced blood flow caused by a spasm of other blood vessels near a ruptured aneurysm. It is estimated that 5% of the population has some type of aneurysm. However, the incidence of ruptured aneurysm is approximately 10 out of 100,000 people per year.

Signs and tests

There may be signs of increased pressure within the brain (raised intracranial pressure) including swelling of the optic nerve (papilledema) or tiny hemorrhages into the retina of the eye that are evident on careful eye examination. Cerebral aneurysm is usually diagnosed by tests to determine the cause of bleeding within the brain.

  • A
  • CT scan of the head indicates bleeding and occasionally locates the aneurysm .
  • A
  • CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) examination (spinal tap) may confirm bleeding when CT scan is non-diagnostic.
  • An
  • MRI of the head may be an alternative to a CT scan, but is not as sensitive to bleeding within the brain (subarachnoid bleeding). MRI scans can demonstrate the actual aneurysm if it is greater than 3 mm in size.
  • Cerebral angiography
  • is the most sensitive tool and pinpoints the location and size of the aneurysm(s).
  • EEG
  • (
  • electroencephalogram ) may be performed if seizures occur.


    Because symptoms often do not appear until bleeding occurs, a ruptured cerebral aneurysm is an emergency condition when it is discovered. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms and prevent further bleeding. Neurosurgery is the primary treatment for cerebral aneurysm. The base of the aneurysm is closed off with clamps, sutures, or other methods that prevent blood flow through the aneurysm. Interventional neuroradiologists can also treat some aneurysms using special coils to obliterate the aneurysm. This is considered a less invasive approach than brain surgery, and in the appropriate circumstances, it is regarded as the best form of treatment. If surgery is not feasible because of the location or size of the aneurysm or the condition of the person, medical treatment is similar to treatment for subarachnoid hemorrhage . This may include restricting activity (often complete bedrest is advised), treating symptoms such as headache , controlling blood pressure, and prescribing preventive (prophylactic) use of antiseizure medications.

    Expectations (prognosis)

    The outcome varies. A cerebral aneurysm that does not rupture may not cause any symptoms. However, about 25% of ruptured cerebral aneurysms are fatal within 24 hours. Approximately another 25% are fatal within about 3 months. Of the remaining people with ruptured cerebral aneurysm, more than one-half will have some sort of permanent disability.


  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Stroke
  • Epilepsy
  • Paralysis
  • of any part of the body
  • Permanent
  • loss of sensation of any part of the face or body
  • Other neurologic deficits (such as vision changes, loss of speech ability, cognitive decline)
  • Communicating hydrocephalus
  • Calling your health care provider

  • Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if sudden or severe
  • headache occurs, particularly if accompanied by nausea, vomiting , seizures , or any other neurologic symptom.


    There is no known way to prevent formation of a cerebral aneurysm. If discovered in time, unruptured aneurysms can be treated before causing problems. The decision to repair an unruptured cerebral aneurysm is based on the size and location of the aneurysm; and the patient's age and general state of medical health.

    Treatment Options – Sorted by Soonest Available


    Save up to versus Emergency Room Visit

    Find Nearest Urgent Care

    Please enter Zip Code for nearest facility

    Av. Wait Time: 3 Min.


    Find Nearest ER

    Please enter Zip Code for nearest facility

    Av. Wait Time: 1 - 8 Hrs.


    Find Nearest Primary Care

    Please enter Zip Code for nearest facility

    Av. Wait Time: 1 - 10 Days

    News related to "Aneurysm in the brain"