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Brain Aneurysm

  • What is a Brain Aneurysm?

    A brain aneurysm is a 'bubble' that occurs in the wall of an artery within the brain which can fill up with blood and eventually burst, potentially causing serious damage to the surrounding brain cells. A brain aneurysm usually affects the main arteries that run under the brain and the base of the skull. Although anyone can suffer from a brain aneurysm, the risk of the aneurysm bursting increases in people over the age of 40, with women being at greater risk than men.

  • A brain aneurysm develops in a weak or defective artery wall, although the cause has yet to be fully understood. It could be a degeneration process, whereby factors such as ageing and high blood pressure play a crucial role. It is also often linked to atherosclerosis, which is a blood vessel disease that causes the arteries to harden due to the accumulation of fatty deposits on the inside of arterial walls.

    Brain aneurysms commonly occur in people with certain genetic disorders such as connective tissue disorder and polycystic kidney disease. Some circulation diseases, such as arteriovenous malformation, can also cause brain aneurysms. Other causes include excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs, head injuries, infection and tumours.

  • Symptoms of a brain aneurysm may not be displayed until bleeding occurs. These include:

    • Impaired vision and speech
    • Loss of consciousness or short blackouts
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Neck pain
    • Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body
    • Seizures
    • Sudden severe headache
  • Brain aneurysms must be treated immediately to avoid death. The aim of the following treatments is to stop the aneurysm from bursting or to prevent bleeding if the aneurysm has already burst:

    • Bypass procedure – This is used to reroute blood around the blocked part of the artery (done at the same time as the occlusion procedure).
    • Endovascular procedure – A catheter (tube) is inserted from the groin and manoeuvred towards the affected brain arteries. Platinum coils are released into the aneurysm to induce blood clot formation.
    • Microsurgical clipping – The surgeon places a clip around the bulging aneurysm to cut its blood supply and prevent further bleeding.
    • Occlusion – This open surgery blocks blood flow to the aneurysm through the artery.
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