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Brain Aneurysm

A brain aneurysm, also known as a cerebral aneurysm, occurs when a weak spot in a blood vessel in the brain fills with blood, causing it to balloon or bulge out.

Brain aneurysm symptoms

Brain aneurysm symptoms of a rupture include the following:

  • A sudden headache often described as “the worst headache of your life”
  • Double vision
  • Stiff neck
  • Pain behind or above the eye
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of your body

A small brain aneurysm that is not leaking often exhibits no symptoms.

Brain aneurysm causes

A brain aneurysm can be caused by any of the following:

  • Trauma to the head
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis (the hardening and narrowing of blood vessels)
  • Smoking
  • Frequent cocaine use

A brain aneuryms can be present at birth due to an abnormal blood vessel wall. 

Care for brain aneurysms at Rush

  • Call 911 immediately if you experience any of the above brain aneurysm symptoms — particularly if they come on suddenly. The faster a person receives treatment, the better the outcome.
  • Not all brain aneurysms need treatment. Whether you need to seek treatment for a brain aneurysm depends on many factors, including your age and general health and the aneurysm’s size and location.  
  • For a non-bleeding or leaking brain aneurysm, neuroendovascular specialists at Rush work with you to decide the best course of action for your aneurysm. This may mean performing a procedure to strengthen the weakened blood vessel wall or deciding to monitor the aneurysm without a procedure.
  • If treatment is recommended, these specialists have extensive experience with a variety of methods, including the following:
    • Clipping: This procedure involves open brain surgery to find the aneurysm and place a clip on it to stop blood flow into the aneurysm.
    • Embolization (or, coiling): This minimally invasive treatment involves a catheter inserted into the groin that is threaded to the brain. Physicians use the catheter to place coils inside the aneurysm to seal off the blood flow.

Why choose Rush for brain aneurysm care

  • Physicians at Rush performed more than 900 neuroendovascular tests and procedures in 2013, giving them extensive experience in both clipping and endovascular embolization to treat brain aneurysms.
  • Patients who have their aneurysms treated at Rush do better than the average for academic medical centers across the nation, according to University HealthSystem Consortium mortality data for 2011-2013.
  • Physicians at Rush were among the first in the U.S. to use the Pipeline Embolization Device. This piece of equipment essentially creates a new blood vessel to replace the weakened vessel. The device is used for aneurysms that might be too dangerous to treat otherwise because of their large size.

Departments and programs that treat this condition