Understanding an Unruptured Brain Aneurysm

Are you concerned about brain aneurysms

You might have heard scary things about brain aneurysms. However, not all aneurysms are immediate threats.

You're not alone if you find brain aneurysms intimidating. A brain aneurysm, or an intracranial aneurysm, is like a small bubble on a blood vessel in your brain that hasn't popped.

While an aneurysm can be concerning, the majority are not dangerous, said Dr. Paul Schmitt, a leading figure in neurological surgery and interventional neuroradiology in Corpus Christi at CHRISTUS Spohn Neurosciences Center.

What Leads to a Brain Aneurysm?

When understanding what might cause a brain aneurysm, Dr. Schmitt points to several factors everyone should know.

  • Family Ties: If brain aneurysms are common in your family, you could be at a higher risk. Dr. Schmitt said this is why screenings are important, especially if two of your close family members have had aneurysms.

  • Smoking: Smoking isn't just bad for your lungs; it can also harm your brain. It's one of the top lifestyle-related risk factors for developing an aneurysm and for causing an aneurysm to rupture.

  • Gender: Interestingly, women are more likely to develop an aneurysm than men. Dr. Schmitt notes that in the United States, approximately 60% of aneurysms occur in females.

Other elements like high blood pressure and age also play a role. What's important is to focus on what you can control—like quitting smoking and managing your blood pressure—to help reduce your risk.

Approach to Patient Care

Dr. Schmitt believes in a tailored approach to treating unruptured aneurysms, where patient care is customized based on the individual's health, the aneurysm's characteristics, and personal preferences. This method ensures that each patient receives the most appropriate treatment.

Dr. Schmitt's expertise in treating brain aneurysms encompasses emergency and elective procedures. Unlike strokes, which require immediate action, aneurysm treatment can often be planned.

This proactive approach allows Dr. Schmitt to treat aneurysms before they pose a serious risk by closely monitoring them to ensure they remain stable.

How likely is it that aneurysms will rupture?

Advances in imaging technology have improved the detection of even tiny aneurysms, which might have gone unnoticed.

Dr. Schmitt said the likelihood of an aneurysm rupturing is most closely linked to its size. Larger aneurysms present a greater risk. Most aneurysms are pretty small and less likely to rupture.

Aneurysms that are large or very irregular in shape are at a higher risk for rupture. A ruptured aneurysm is a life-threatening emergency. For this reason, you should have an expert evaluate any aneurysm to perform a risk stratification.

How is an unruptured brain aneurysm treated?

Even though most aneurysms do not require treatment, the management of any unruptured aneurysms requires balancing the risks of rupture against the risks of treatment.

Dr. Schmitt outlines the main treatment strategies:

  • Observation: Regular imaging tests and checkups to monitor small, stable aneurysms that are unlikely to rupture.

  • Surgical Clipping: A metal clip is placed across the neck of the affected blood vessel during surgery for aneurysms at risk of rupturing, effectively preventing blood flow into the aneurysm.

  • Endovascular Coiling: This procedure uses catheters to place coils inside the aneurysm, stopping blood flow and reducing the risk of rupture.

  • Flow Diversion: Innovative devices are used to redirect blood away from the aneurysm, which allows the blood vessel wall to heal over the neck of the aneurysm, thus providing a definitive cure.

  • Microsurgical Bypass: For complex cases, surgery can reroute blood flow around the aneurysm using grafts from other parts of the body.

Making Informed Health Decisions

Deciding on the best approach to managing unruptured brain aneurysms is a prime example of the power of informed health decisions. Dr. Schmitt's dedication to patient education and communication helps individuals navigate their health choices confidently.

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