Aneurysms are, in simple terms, enlarged sections of arteries in which blood circulates. They can occur in various parts of the body – including in the brain.
They are caused in some cases by arteriosclerosis (furring of the arteries) or by congenital defects and changes to the vessel wall. The swellings can however also be caused by infection. The size of an aneurysm can vary from a few millimetres to several centimetres.
If the aneurysm grows too much or if the blood pressure on the weakened wall increases, it can burst and cause dangerous bleeding in the brain.
Rarely, patients complain of a long history of recurring headaches. Larger aneurysms cause headaches, and also, depending on their size and position, visual problems, eye muscle or facial paralysis, tingling and weakness of the extremities and disturbed consciousness. These are the same symptoms as are caused by a space-occupying lesion, which could mean a tumour.
If a brain aneurysm bursts, it can cause bleeding in the brain, which causes symptoms similar to those of a stroke: these range from sudden, stabbing headaches and immediate nausea and vomiting to paralysis down one side and disturbed consciousness. In worst-case scenarios, the outcome can even be fatal.
If a brain aneurysm is discovered, it needs to be treated right away in order to prevent any life-threatening bleeds.
There are two different methods available: in the majority of cases, we can tie off the aneurysms microsurgically using clipping. Certain aneurysms have been successfully treated with a process known as “coiling”.