An aneurysm is a bulging of an artery or blood vessel, and a cerebral aneurysm is an aneurysm that occurs in the brain. It is filled with blood and appears as though the artery ballooned out in one area. A cerebral aneurysm can occur when a congenital defect has weakened the wall of an artery and either a medical condition such as high blood pressure or infection occurs or there is a head trauma. It is one of the most common cerebrovascular disorders, and it occurs in as many as one in fifteen people, more often in women than men.
There are three types of cerebral aneurysms, including saccular, fusiform, and mycotic. Saccular aneurysms are small, sac-like protrusions usually found in what is known as the Circle of Willis, which is at the base of the brain. These are the most common type and will rupture if pulse pressure causes a hole to form in the sac. Fusiform aneurysms bulge out on the entire circumference of the artery, but rarely rupture. Mycotic aneurysms are very rare and occur as the result of an infection.
Most of the time, no one will know a cerebral aneurysm is present until it ruptures. When this happens, blood hemorrhages in different areas of the brain and a person may experience a severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, vomiting, vision impairment or may even pass out. Rupture may be minimal or severe, with severity of symptoms coinciding with the level of the damage and amount of blood. Some may experience no symptoms at all and at the most severe level a permanent vegetative state or death may occur.
A cerebral aneurysm that has not ruptured may be diagnosed when brain imaging is done for another condition. In this case, doctors may simply monitor the progression of a small aneurysm, or they may elect to perform either a microvascular clipping, an occlusion, or an endovascular embolization. The treatment depends on the health of the individual, age, and size and location of the cerebral aneurysm.
If a rupture of a cerebral aneurysm is suspected, emergency medical treatment should be sought immediately. It is very important to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible to prevent further damage. There is no way to prevent a cerebral aneurysm, but those diagnosed with an unruptured cerebral aneurysm should carefully monitor blood pressure, quit smoking, and avoid cocaine as well as any other stimulants.