Overview: Types of Aneurysm and Risk Factors

cerebral aneurysms

In the human circulatory system, arteries are blood vessels that play a crucial role in transporting oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. In certain cases, the inner walls of the artery may suffer damage and certain deformities may occur. These abnormal formations are known as aneurysms. They can occur in any part of the body.

When a blood vessel in the brain becomes stretched like a balloon or bulges out, and gets weak, it is termed a cerebral aneurysm. There is a risk of the aneurysm leaking blood into the brain, or rupturing and causing bleeding in the brain. This condition can have serious, often fatal, consequences and the patient will require emergency medical attention.

Types of Aneurysm:

Aneurysms are classified according to the location of occurrence. They typically occur in the brain, aorta, spleen, legs (especially behind the knees), kidneys, etc.

  ● Brain or Cerebral Aneurysms: are located within the blood vessel walls that transport oxygen and nutrition-enriched blood to the brain. They may be of any size and often resemble bubbles in the early stages, and like berries hanging on a stem in later stages. Symptoms are rarely present and only when there is leakage or rupture do they get detected. Otherwise, they seldom cause problems and many people go through life without ever knowing they had one.

   ● Aortic Aneurysms: are the most common type and are located within the walls of the aorta. They may be thoracic aneurysms in the chest region or abdominal aneurysms in the abdominal area.

   ● Peripheral Aneurysms: occur in the knees, spleen, groin, intestines, thigh, neck or kidneys. Chances of rupture are relatively few in this type.

   ● Cirsoid Aneurysms: are a rare occurrence, caused by a genetic defect and are typically located in the head and neck. A group of blood vessels gets dilated and there is an abnormal connection between veins and arteries.

Risk Factors

Brain aneurysms are more common in adults, especially women. Risk factors may either be present at birth or they may develop over time.
   ● Old age
   ● Smoking, drug (cocaine), and alcohol abuse
   ● Hypertension
   ● After-effects of head injury
   ● Certain blood infections
   ● Congenital factors: connective tissue disorders, polycystic kidney disease, abnormally narrow aorta, an arteriovenous malformation in brain, family history

Common Symptoms Of Brain Aneurysm

Typical aneurysm symptoms in the brain occur with leaking or ruptured aneurysms. They include:
   ● Sudden, severe headache
   ● Nausea and vomiting
   ● Drowsiness and difficulty in concentration
   ● Loss of coordination in routine activities
   ● Loss of balance in normal walking
   ● Stiff neck
   ● Blurry/Double vision
   ● Dilated pupils and light sensitivity
   ● Drooping eyelids
   ● Confusion and lack of awareness
   ● Seizures

Unruptured aneurysms may not present with any symptoms, but if you experience any of the above symptoms along with weakness or numbness on one side of the face, it’s important to consult a doctor immediately.

When to Seek Treatment?

If you also experience any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to have a complete check-up for the presence of cerebral aneurysms.

People who are obese, have high blood pressure, smoke/drink regularly are at risk for developing brain aneurysms. If you have suffered severe physical trauma, live in high altitudes, or the condition runs in your family, there are increased chances of developing aneurysms. It’s important to get yourself checked out regularly to detect the presence of an aneurysm.

Treatment Options For Ruptured Aneurysm

Two common treatment options are available for ruptured cerebral aneurysms. Both these procedures are carried out under general anaesthesia. They carry their own risks and increase the chances of either bleeding in the brain or loss of blood flow to the brain.

Surgical Clipping: is an invasive, surgical process where the aneurysm is closed off to prevent bleeding. A portion of the skull is surgically removed and the blood vessel that feeds the aneurysm is identified. A clip is then attached to the neck of the aneurysm to prevent further flow of blood into it.

Endovascular Coiling: is a process where the surgeon inserts a catheter into an artery in the groin and threads it all the way into the aneurysm. Once there, a fine, soft platinum wire is pushed through into the aneurysm, where it forms a coil. This disrupts blood flow into the aneurysm and seals it off from the artery that feeds it. This is a non-invasive procedure.

Flow diverters: Implanting of tube-like stents at the site diverts the blood away from the aneurysm. Subsequently, the body’s natural healing process seals the site of the aneurysm and encourages the rebuilding of the artery. This is useful in larger aneurysms that cannot be treated.

Pain relievers, calcium channel blockers, angioplasty, vasopressors, anti-seizure medications, shunt surgery, lumbar or ventricular draining, rehabilitative surgery etc. are options available.