Brain Aneurysm: An impending risk for stroke and bleeding in brain
Brain aneurysm is a condition of the blood vessels in the brain. It appears as though berries are hanging on the stem. Brain aneurysm may lead to rapture and bleeding of the blood vessels causing hemorrhagic stroke. This condition requires urgent attention, as it is life-threatening. Effective treatment for brain aneurysm includes early diagnosis, and preventing the brain’s blood vessels from rapturing.
Brain aneurysms occur in arteries at the base of the brain. This is due to the thinning of artery walls. The forks or branches of the arteries are considered to be the most weakest, and susceptible to rupture.
The condition of brain aneurysm is characterized by symptoms of sudden and severe headache, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, blurred vision, seizures, drooping eyelids and loss of consciousness and confusion. Aneurysms may be of different types: Leaking aneurysm (blood leaking), and unruptured aneurysm. The later is characterized by symptoms of pain above and behind the eye, double vision, weakness and drooping eyelids.
RISK FACTORS AND COMPLICATIONS
Brain aneurysm may be due to older age, smoking, high blood pressure (hypertension), hardening of arteries, drug abuse, head injury, heavy alcohol consumption, and lower estrogen levels. Certain inherited factors present from birth may contribute to the development of Brain aneurysm. These include, inherited connective tissue disorders, polycystic kidney disease, abnormally narrow aorta, cerebral arteriovenous malformation and family history of brain aneurysm.
Brain aneurysm may develop complication viz. re-bleeding, vasospasm, hydrocephalus, and hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is a condition where, drop in the sodium levels leads to swelling of brain cells and causing permanent damage to the brain.
TESTS & DIAGNOSIS
Patients with severe headache are questioned by their doctor for family history of brain aneurysm. The doctor refers the patient to a series of tests viz. CT Scan, cerebrospinal fluid test, MRI, and cerebral angiogram. To verify the presence of a blood clot or brain hemorrhage, the doctor advises for CT scan, which produces images that are 2-D slices of the brain.
Any suspected condition of brain hemorrhage is verified by CT scan, and the needful solution is suggested. X-ray also helps in revealing the condition of arteries in the brain. If CT Scan hasn’t shown evidence of bleeding, a cerebrospinal fluid test is suggested.
In case of brain hemorrhage, the red blood cells enter the cerebrospinal fluid (fluid surrounding brain & spine). The cerebrospinal fluid is extracted from the back of the body using a needle. This process is called lumbar puncture or spinal tap.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI uses the magnetic field to create detailed images of the brain to prepare 2-D and 3-D images. MRI helps in identifying the arteries where there is ruptured aneurysm.
TREATMENTS & DRUGS
Depending on the type of brain aneurysm, the course of treatment is advised by the specialist doctor or neurologist. Surgical treatments for brain aneurysm includes, surgical clipping, and endovascular coiling. During the surgical clipping procedure, a part of the ruptured blood vessel is clipped with tiny metal to stop blood flow.
In Endovascular coiling, an invasive procedure where a hollow tube is inserted into an artery in the groin and threads it through the body to the aneurysm. Both, the procedures, surgical clipping and endovascular coiling are useful in the case of larger aneurysms, where other options may not workout.
The symptoms and complications of brain aneurysm can be effectively managed through pain relievers, calcium channel blockers, anti-seizure medications, Ventricular or lumbar draining catheters and shunt surgery, and rehabilitative therapy.
Pain relievers may help in treating headaches. The calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering cells of the blood vessel walls. Anti-seizure medications help to treat seizures related to some forms of brain aneurysm. Rehabilitative therapy helps patients of brain aneurysm to relearn skills.
Before a particular treatment or procedure is advised to the brain aneurysm patient, different factors are taken into consideration, which includes, the patient’s health, family history and congenital conditions, smoking habits and control over blood pressure.