What are brain aneurysms?
An aneurysm is when a vessel in the brain becomes thin and starts to bulge and fill with blood. This can put pressure on the nerves and tissues in the brain. If the aneurysm ruptures, it can spill blood into the surrounding area, causing serious problems such as a stroke. The implications of an aneurysm is dependent on the size, shape and location of the bulge.
Unruptured vs ruptured aneurysms
Unruptured aneurysms do not necessarily show symptoms unless they are larger in size. They can put pressure on the brain’s nerves and tissues. Some symptoms include:
- Pain behind the eye
- Double or blurry vision
- Paralysis on one side of the face
When an aneurysm ruptures, patients will feel an instant headache. This is when the blood spills from the bulge and into the surrounding areas. In addition, a patient may also experience:
- Sensitivity to light
Small leaks from the aneurysm into the brain can also occur. This is called a sentinel bleed. This can also cause a headache in some people.
How are brain aneurysms diagnosed?
Aneurysms can be diagnosed through medical imaging scans and other analyses. An MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiogram), CTA (Computed Tomography Angiography), CSF (Cerebrospinal Fluid) analysis or an Angiogram can be used to diagnose aneurysms.
The MRA works the same as an MRI scan, with a focus on arteries in the brain instead. It can show if there has been any bleeding in the brain as well as if an aneurysm is present.
A CTA is also the same as a CT scan, but uses a contrast dye to look for aneurysms within the brain. It provides a sharper image to help catch any bleeding in the brain compared to a regular CT brain scan.
Fluoroscopic-guided catheter angiography is another test to detect aneurysms in the brain. CSF analysis uses a spinal tap to collect cerebrospinal fluid to test for the presence of blood. If present, additional testing is required, most likely in the form of a CTA or MRA.