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Cerebral Aneurysm

A cerebral aneurysm is the dilation, bulging, or ballooning-out of part of the wall of an artery in the brain. Cerebral aneurysms can occur at any age, although they are more common in adults than in children and are slightly more common in women than in men.

The signs and symptoms of an unruptured cerebral aneurysm will partly depend on its size and rate of growth. For example, a small, unchanging aneurysm will generally produce no symptoms, whereas a larger aneurysm that is steadily growing may produce symptoms such as loss of feeling in the face or problems with the eyes. Immediately after an aneurysm ruptures, an individual may experience such symptoms as a sudden and unusually severe headache, nausea, vision impairment, vomiting, and loss of consciousness.

Is there any treatment?

For unruptured aneurysms, treatment may be recommended for large or irregularly-shaped aneurysms or for those causing symptoms. Emergency treatment for individuals with a ruptured cerebral aneurysm may be required to restore deteriorating respiration and reduce abnormally high pressure within the brain.

Treatment is necessary to prevent the aneurysm from rupturing again. Surgical treatment prevents repeat aneurysm rupture by placing a metal clip at the base of the aneurysm. Patients for whom surgery is considered too risky may be treated by inserting the tip of a catheter into an artery in the groin and advancing it through the blood stream to the site of the aneurysm, where it is used to insert metal coils that induce clot formation within the aneurysm.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for a patient with a ruptured cerebral aneurysm depends on the extent and location of the aneurysm, the person's age, general health, and neurological condition. Early diagnosis and treatment are important.

What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research in its laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and also supports additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country. The NINDS supports a broad range of basic and clinical research aimed at finding better ways to prevent and treat cerebrovascular disorders such as cerebral aneurysms.