What Is a Brain Aneurysm?

What Is a Brain Aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm is a bulge in the
wall of a brain artery. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood to organs, such as
the brain. A brain aneurysm can occur in an artery wall that is weak or has a defect.
Aneurysm is often linked with hardening of the arteries. Other risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heredity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Cocaine abuse
  • Head injury

If the bulge in a brain artery tears and bleeds, nearby brain tissue may
be damaged. This can cause severe problems or death.

Health care provider talking to family in hospital waiting room.


In most cases, a brain aneurysm has
no symptoms until it bleeds or tears. Symptoms of this can include:

  • Severe headache

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Stiff neck

  • Brief blackout

  • Confusion

  • Slow movements

  • Clumsiness

  • Vision or speech problems

  • Paralysis or weakness on one
    side of the body

  • Jerking movements, such as
    seizures or convulsions

  • Coma

Getting medical care fast

A brain aneurysm needs to be
assessed right away and treated if possible. This may save the person’s life. After
tests are done and the cause is known, the healthcare team will call specialists.
Treatment will start right away if the aneurysm has bled.

In some cases, bleeding can only be
treated with supportive medical care. If the aneurysm has bled, treatment may not
reverse damage to the brain. But surgery may help. It can prevent more bleeding. It can
remove trapped blood in and around the brain. And it can relieve extra pressure on the
brain. Or other forms of therapy may be done. These include endovascular coiling or
microvascular clipping. These can prevent more bleeding.

In some cases, an aneurysm can lead to severe brain injury. This may
require medical life support. Sometimes even the most intensive treatment can’t save the
person’s life.

Working with the healthcare team

Your loved one may be too ill to
know what’s going on. You may need to decide on the extent of his or her treatment. The
healthcare team will answer any questions you have. Choose only a few family members to
talk to the healthcare team. These family members can share what they learn with others.
Doing this will make it simpler to keep everyone informed.