“All of a sudden, it felt like a lightning bolt hit me; it was the worst headache I had ever felt…”
Bleeding in the brain from a brain aneurysm remains a significant cause of death and disability. Aneurysms occur when a weak or thin spot on an artery in the brain that balloons or bulges out and fills with blood.
Arteries are the blood vessels carrying blood from the heart to different parts of the body and normally have thick, muscular walls, even inside the brain. These bulging aneurysms are weaker than the normal vessels, making them more likely to rupture and bleed.
If these aneurysms rupture, a severe, sudden-onset headache is usually the first symptom felt. Brain Aneurysm rupture survivors describe this headache as the worst headache of their life, or a headache as swift and severe as a thunderclap.
If you suffer a sudden, severe headache like this, time is of the essence. While treatment options are available to stabilize and improve your chances for recovery, it is crucial that you present to the emergency department as soon as possible. As with many neurologic diseases, time is brain!
Treating a Ruptured Aneurysm
If an aneurysm has ruptured, it must be secured through either a traditional neurosurgical procedure, or through an endovascular procedure – one performed inside of the blood vessels. The determination for which of these procedures is most appropriate will be made by your neurosurgeon based on the location, size, and shape of the aneurysm.
Once the aneurysm is secured, the risk for further injury is not over. You will be cared for in the critical care unit, where medications and further tests will be performed to ensure none of these frequent complications are encountered.
- Spasm of the blood vessels
- Stroke from vessel spasm
- Rebleeding of the aneurysm
Any evidence of these symptoms will be swiftly addressed in order to maximize the potential of recovery.
Treating an Unruptured Aneurysm
If an aneurysm has NOT ruptured, there are opportunities to evaluate the aneurysm and determine the safest strategy for treatment. Treatment will depend on many elements including the following:
- Location of the aneuyrsm
Depending on these characteristics and the evolution of the aneurysm, meaning whether it has grown or changed shape over an interval period, a treatment plan will be custom tailored for you.
Such a plan will weigh the risks of aneurysm rupture compared to the inherent risks associated with any surgery. It also allows for preparations to be made to treat including ordering specialty equipment and pretreating any heart disease, or other comorbid illness.
While there is a chance that anyone could have an aneurysm, our goal is to reduce your risk of rupture, or complication.
Many factors can increase your risk of having a ruptured aneurysm; some of which you cannot control:
- Increasing age
- Family History / Genetics
- Female gender
- People of color
- Certain diseases (Fibromuscular Dysplasia, Syphillis, Marfan’s Syndrome)
But many more factors that you can directly control, not only to reduce your risk of a ruptured aneurysm, but improve your overall health!
- Tobacco Abuse (Cigar, Cigarettes, Vaping, and Dip)
- High Blood Pressure
- Drug Abuse (including Cocaine, Heroin / Opiates, PCP)
- Severe Head Trauma
- Excessive Alcohol Abuse
Like many neurologic diseases, never having an aneurysm rupture is the best strategy. Once an aneurysm ruptures, the fatality rate can be as high as 40%, so reducing your risk by addressing the above health problems can literally save your life!