Aneurysm in the brain: Overview, Causes

Alternate Names : Aneurysm – cerebral, Cerebral aneurysm

Definition

An aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a section of a blood vessel. When an aneurysm occurs in the brain, it is called a cerebral aneurysm.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Aneurysms in the brain occur when there is a weakened area in the wall of a blood vessel. An aneurysm may be present from birth (congenital) or it may develop later in life. (For example, after a blood vessel is injured.)

There are many different types of aneurysms. A berry aneurysm can vary in size from a few millimeters to over a centimeter. Giant berry aneurysms can reach well over 2 centimeters. These are more common in adults. Multiple berry aneurysms are inherited more often than other types of aneurysms.

Other types of cerebral aneurysm involve widening of an entire blood vessel, or they may appear as a “ballooning out” of part of a blood vessel. Such aneurysms can occur in any blood vessel that supplies the brain. Trauma and infection, which can injure the blood vessel wall, can cause such aneurysms.

About 5% of the population has some type of aneurysm in the brain. Risk factors include a family history of cerebral aneurysms, and certain medical problems such as polycystic kidney disease and coarctation of the aorta.

Pictures & Images

Cerebral aneurysm

An aneurysm is a sac-like protrusion of an artery caused by a weakened area within the vessel wall. If a cerebral (brain) aneurysm ruptures, the escaping blood within the brain may cause severe neurologic complications or death. A person who has a ruptured cerebral aneurysm may complain of the sudden onset of “the worst headache of my life.”

Cerebral aneurysm

Cerebral aneurysm

Weakness, numbness, or other loss of nerve function may indicate that an aneurysm may be causing pressure on adjacent brain tissue. Symptoms such as a severe headache, nausea, vomiting, vision changes or other neurological changes can indicate the aneurysm has ruptured and is bleeding into the brain. A ruptured intracranial aneurysm causes intracranial bleeding and is considered very dangerous.

Aneurysm in the brain: Overview, Causes

Aneurysm in the brain: Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Aneurysm in the brain: Treatment


Review Date : 4/13/2009
Reviewed By : A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital (9/27/2008).
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