Brain Aneurysms

Neurosurgical Specialists of West County

Neurosurgeons located in Saint Louis, MO

The prospect of sudden death from a ruptured brain aneurysm is a scary thought, so if you have a suspicion that you or someone you know could be at risk, it’s essential to seek expert medical help. The team at Neurosurgical Specialists of West County in St. Louis has considerable expertise when it comes to diagnosing and treating patients who have brain aneurysms — before, during, and after they rupture. Call the practice today to find out more.

Brain Aneurysms Q & A

What is a brain aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm develops when a weak or diseased section in one of the arteries supplying the brain forms a pouch that swells outward. Sometimes these pouches cause no problems at all, but in other cases they can rupture, causing a potentially life-threatening bleed into the brain.

Ruptured brain aneurysms can lead to serious neurological damage, resulting in a stroke, coma, or sudden death. If you or anyone you’re with shows any signs that could indicate a ruptured brain aneurysm, it’s vital to get emergency medical attention.

What are the symptoms of a brain aneurysm?

Unruptured brain aneurysms can be present for years without causing symptoms. An expanding aneurysm is one that’s getting bigger, swelling up like a balloon, and presenting a high risk of rupture. Expanding aneurysms may not cause symptoms either, apart from an enlarged pupil or double vision in some patients.

If the aneurysm ruptures and blood leaks into the brain, it can cause a sudden, severe headache that patients who’ve experienced it describe as “the worst headache of their life.” Ruptured aneurysms can also cause nausea, a stiff neck, and a variety of symptoms similar to those of a stroke.

What causes brain aneurysms?

Some people are born with a weakened artery in their brain that can form an aneurysm over time; others develop weaknesses at some point in their life. You’re more likely to develop a brain aneurysm if you have one or more of these risk factors:

  • Smoking is associated with a higher risk of aneurysm rupture 
  • Chronic high blood pressure
  • Age over 40
  • Drug user
  • Family history of brain aneurysms
  • Severe injury to the brain or head
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Arteriovenous malformation

Brain aneurysms are also more likely to affect people who have certain connective tissue diseases such as Ehlers-Danlos, fibromuscular dysplasia, or Marfan's syndrome.

What treatments are available for brain aneurysms?

If your doctor suspects you have a brain aneurysm, they run tests to confirm the diagnosis and find out if there’s any leakage or signs of a rupture.

A diagnostic imaging procedure called an angiogram can illustrate any damage to the arteries or leakage. You can have an angiogram using CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technology, or a catheter-based angiogram. Your neurosurgeon might also carry out a lumbar puncture to analyze your cerebrospinal fluid.

An expanding or ruptured brain aneurysm is a medical emergency that requires a neurosurgical evaluation immediately and, in most cases, urgent surgery. Potential surgical interventions include microsurgical clipping or wrapping, and endovascular coiling with or without a stent.

To discuss your concerns about brain aneurysm, call Neurosurgical Specialists of West County today.