Intracranial Aneurysm

A subarachnoid hemorrhage causes tremendous pressure inside the skull, often with devastating effect. Between 15 and 30 percent of those suffering a subarachnoid hemorrhage will die before they reach the hospital. If left untreated, other outcomes include persistent confusion or stupor and coma.

What causes an intracranial aneurysm?
There is so single cause. Some people suffer from congenital defects that weaken the walls of their blood vessels and make them more susceptible to aneurysms. Other factors include atherosclerosis, vascular disorders, trauma, infection, drug abuse and malignancies.

Who is susceptible to an intracranial aneurysm?
Between 1.5 and 8 percent of the population may suffer from intracranial aneurysms. Some of these will go forever undetected, and will never rupture. The peak age for rupture is 40 to 70. Women are more likely to be affected than men. People suffering from hypertension, adult polycystic disease (a condition that causes multiple cysts and lesions on organs such as the kidney and the liver), kidney disease and connective tissue diseases including Marfan Syndrome (an inherited disorder affecting the connective tissues of the heart, lungs eyes and skeletal system) are at increased risk for intracranial aneurysms.

How often do aneurysms rupture?
No one knows for sure. However, several significant studies indicate that from 2 in 100 to 1 in 1000 patients who have aneurysms will suffer from ruptures each year. This means that, if you have an aneurysm, the chance of rupture is between 0.1 to 2 percent annually. Therefore, over the course of 10 years, your chances of suffering a rupture will range anywhere form 1 to 20 percent.

Whether an aneurysm will rupture depends on a variety of issues. The size of the aneurysm, whether you smoke, and how weak your blood vessels are all play a part in determining when, or if, an aneurysm will burst.

The symptoms of an aneurysm rupture can include:

  • Sudden and severe pain, an unusual pulsing sensation, pain or a lump anywhere in your body where blood vessels are located.
  • A severe headache, like none you've ever had before, accompanied by radiating neck pain. Many patients describe this as "the worst headache of my life."

What are the long-term consequences of aneurysm rupture?
An aneurysm’s rupture causes blood to seep into the skull. The bleeding increases pressure in the skull. That pressure can halt the flow of blood supply to the brain, causing severe damage. Also, blood around the brain is extremely toxic and the brain reacts badly to it. Since the effects of a severe bleed can become worse in the days following the rupture, a patient is typically observed in the intensive care unit for one or two weeks.

For more information, call 813) 870-4000.