Cerebral Aneurysm

What is a Cerebral Aneurysm?

An aneurysm is a weak area in a blood vessel that usually enlarges, often described as a “ballooning” of the blood vessel.

How common are Cerebral Aneurysms?

About 1.5 to 5 percent of the general population has or will develop a cerebral aneurysm. About 3 to 5 million people in the United States have cerebral aneurysms, but most don't produce any symptoms. Between 0.5 and 3 percent of people with a brain aneurysm may suffer from bleeding.

How are Cerebral Aneurysms Found?

Special imaging tests can detect a brain aneurysm. Two noninvasive tests show the blood vessels in the brain. In the first, called CTA (computed tomographic angiography), patients are placed on a table that slides into a CT scanner. A special contrast material (dye) is injected into a vein, and images are taken of the blood vessels to look for abnormalities such as an aneurysm. In the second test, called MRA (magnetic resonance angiography), patients are placed on a table that slides into a magnetic resonance scanner, and the blood vessels are imaged to detect a cerebral aneurysm. Both of these screening tests detect most cerebral aneurysms larger than 3–5 mm (about 3/16 inch).

The most reliable test is called a diagnostic cerebral angiogram. In this test, the patient lies on an X-ray table. A small tube (catheter) is inserted through a blood vessel in the leg (groin) and guided into each of the blood vessels in the neck that go to the brain. Contrast is then injected, and pictures are taken of all the blood vessels in the brain. This test is slightly more invasive and less comfortable, but it is the most reliable way to detect all types and sizes of cerebral aneurysms.

Before any treatment is considered, a diagnostic cerebral angiogram is usually performed to fully map a plan for therapy.

For more information on aneurysms or other neuroscience services available, please call 856-256-7591.