When you have a cerebral aneurysm, you have a bulging, weakened, or thin area within an artery wall in your brain that fills with blood. Not all aneurysms require treatment, and you can even live your entire life without knowing you have one. However, others can have serious or life-threatening consequences.
At Cerebrum MD in Tyson’s Corner, Vienna, Virginia, Joseph Watson, MD, works with the most talented endovascular physicians in the area to treat brain aneurysms. He shares these insights into this risky condition and why you should schedule an appointment to get checked if you have a family history of aneurysms.
Brain aneurysm basics
Approximately 1 in 50 people — between 3-5% of Americans — will develop a brain aneurysm during their lifetime. What makes them dangerous is that they rarely cause symptoms unless they leak or burst. When this occurs, you experience bleeding in your brain, or a hemorrhagic stroke.
Cerebral aneurysms can occur in anyone at any age, but they’re most common in women ages 35-60. Other factors that increase your chances of having a brain aneurysm include:
- High blood pressure
- Head injury
- Tumors or infections
- Congenital abnormalities
- Smoking or heavy alcohol consumption
- Illegal drug use
You’re also up to 20% more likely to have an aneurysm if you have a close relative with the condition.
Inherited risks associated with brain aneurysms
Each year, approximately 30,000 Americans have a brain aneurysm rupture. Unfortunately, bleeding within your brain can cause permanent damage or death. That’s why early detection can play a crucial role in outlining a treatment strategy to avoid risky complications.
A family history of aneurysms can suggest a higher chance of having the condition. But, these risks increase even more if you have two or more first-degree relatives — such as a parent, sibling, or child — who have an aneurysm.
In addition to a family history, certain inherited conditions can also increase your chances of having a brain aneurysm, including:
- Connective tissue disorders that weaken blood vessels, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- An abnormally narrow aorta, which is the blood vessel that provides oxygen-rich blood to the body
- Cerebral arteriovenous malformation, which interferes with normal blood flow between arteries and veins in the brain
- Polycystic kidney disease, a kidney condition that can also increase your blood pressure
Recognizing your personal risks can help you detect aneurysms early, so our team can intervene if needed.
Treating brain aneurysms
Not all brain aneurysms require treatment. However, if Dr. Watson recommends therapy, he usually suggests minimally invasive endovascular coiling.
Endovascular coiling is one of the leading and most advanced approaches available for treating a brain aneurysm. Instead of traditional procedures, which require opening the skull, endovascular technology uses small incisions and a catheter.
During your procedure, an endovascular specialist inserts a catheter into the artery in your groin and guides it all the way to the aneurysm in your brain. Then, they place coils to trigger the clotting process, which prevents blood from reaching the aneurysm. This technique usually requires an overnight stay in the hospital. But you can typically resume normal activity within a few days.
If endovascular coiling isn’t the best treatment for your aneurysm, Dr. Watson is one of the few neurosurgeons in active practice with extensive experience in surgical clipping. He also has advanced training in brain bypass techniques, and he oversaw a cerebrovascular research unit during his time at the National Institutes of Health.
Don’t wait to schedule an appointment if you have a family history or an inherited risk for a brain aneurysm. To learn more, book an appointment over the phone with Cerebrum MD today.