It’s estimated 6 million Americans have a hidden secret- their brain is harboring an aneurysm, a weakened blood vessel that could burst with little warning. Chances are most people know very little about them.
“The risk of having this dilated blood vessel is that it could potentially rupture and cause blood to spill out around the brain. And that’s when the patient presents with the worst headache of their life,” says Dr. Greg Velat, neurosurgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.
Here’s the basics on brain aneurysm. First, they can be detected even if they haven’t burst.
“Aneurysms are probably more common than you think. We find them in patients who may come in after a trauma or had a head CT or MRI scan or unrelated symptoms,” says Dr. Velat.
Secondly, most aneurysms never cause a problem.
“There’s a psychological impact to having an aneurism in the brain but in some cases if it’s a small aneurysm and it appears regular it may be fine just to watch it and get a scan in a year,” says Dr. Velat.
Treatments for an aneurysm have come a long way in the last decade. Burst blood vessels need to be contained and so do ones that doctors feel are likely to bleed. The choice: to clip or coil.
The third brain basic, what’s the difference in treatment?
“Upwards of 60-70% of aneurysms treated today are coiled which is a dramatic reversal of a trend we saw maybe 10 years ago where mostly aneurisms were clipped. Clipping is where a craniotomy is performed and a clip is placed along the neck of the aneurysm to keep it from bleeding again. The newer innovation involves putting coils in the aneurysm. And that's performed through a serious of catheters that are accessed through the groin artery and then navigated into the aneurysm sack where the coils are then deployed. And that allows the aneurysm to clot off from the inside,” says Dr. Velat.
And finally, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t let them weigh on your brain- consult a doctor.