If you, a family member or friend has been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, it can be frightening.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Emun Abdu of the EvergreenHealth Neuroscience, Spine & Orthopedic Institute shares information on brain aneurysms including their causes and various treatment options.
What is an aneurysm?
Dr. Emun Abdu: An aneurysm occurs when a blood vessel enlarges to more than 1.5 times its normal size.
Imagine it like a balloon: the bigger the artery gets, the thinner its wall becomes and the greater chance it has of bursting, or rupturing.
Aneurysms can happen to anyone—even those who are in great health— and unfortunately there are very few symptoms that indicate someone might be at risk.
We do know, however, that there are several factors that increase your risk for a brain aneurysm, including high blood pressure, smoking or substance abuse.
Many people tend to confuse a ruptured aneurysm with a stroke, but these two conditions are caused by different issues in the brain.
Dr. Abdu: That's correct. An aneurysm can develop when the artery wall is weakened, causing the blood vessel to bulge or “balloon.” If the vessel ruptures, it will cause bleeding in or around the brain.
A stroke can have multiple causes. Sometimes it is the result of a ruptured aneurysm, or it can happen when the blood supply to the brain has been blocked, and blood and oxygen are unable to reach the brain’s tissues.
Both conditions display similar symptoms, and if you suspect either in yourself or a loved one, go to the emergency room right away.
EvergreenHealth Spine & Neurosurgical Care offers two main options for treating brain aneurysms; explain the difference.
Clipping is the more traditional treatment and involves placing small metallic clips along the blood vessel that feeds the aneurysm, which stops the blood flow to it.
As an alternative to clipping, I also perform endovascular coiling, a less invasive procedure that uses a catheter to guide a metal wire into the aneurysm. The wire coils up inside the aneurysm, stopping the blood flow and sealing off the aneurysm from the artery.
Because coiling is a less invasive procedure, those patients face a shorter recovery time compared to clipping.
What about unruptured aneurysms - are there ways to treat it and minimize its risks?
I work with my patients to develop a treatment plan that controls their blood pressure. Smoking cessation is the best way to reduce the forces pushing against the artery wall.
At EvergreenHealth, we also recommend surveillance with noninvasive scans for high risk aneurysms.
Dr. Emun Abdu is a neurosurgeon with the EvergreenHealth Neuroscience, Spine & Orthopedic Institute in Kirkland, WA. In addition to providing comprehensive neurological care, Dr. Abdu is one of very few U.S. board-certified neurosurgeons with the surgical capabilities to provide patients the option of traditional surgical or minimally invasive endovascular treatment. Patients with complex neurovascular diseases, such as brain aneurysms, often benefit from her wide breadth of treatment options.