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Brain Aneurysm: A Hidden Danger

September is Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month

September is Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month

In a room of 50 people, chances are one has an unruptured brain aneurysm. They’re part of an estimated 6.5 million people in the U.S. with an aneurysm, a weak or thin spot on an artery in the brain that bulges out and fills with blood.

An aneurysm may not always produce symptoms, but it can if it puts pressure on surrounding nerves or brain tissue. It also can rupture, presenting a potentially deadly scenario.

“Time is brain, and our highly-trained teams are the foundation for the best possible outcomes.” – Walter Jean, MD

While 50-80% of aneurysms don’t rupture, it does happen to about 30,000 people each year in the U.S. Worldwide, about 500,000 people a year die from brain aneurysms, according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.

In many cases, you may not even know you have a brain aneurysm unless it’s detected in imaging for another medical reason. There are risk factors associated with aneurysms, and some factors are inherited, such as genetic connective tissue disorders. Other factors include smoking, untreated high blood pressure, drug abuse and age (over 40).

Aneurysm treatment depends on numerous factors, including the size, type and location of the aneurysm.

Aneurysm symptoms

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says growing aneurysms putting pressure on tissues and nerves can cause:

  • Pain above and behind the eye
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis on one side of the face
  • Dilated pupil
  • Vision changes or double vision

Did you know?

Brain aneurysms can occur in anyone and at any age. They are most common in adults between the ages of 30 and 60 and are more common in women than in men.

A burst aneurysm always causes a sudden, severe headache, and possibly:

  • Double vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness (this may happen briefly or may be prolonged)
  • Cardiac arrest

Two aneurysm stories

Some aneurysm cases, such as Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, put an international spotlight on the condition. Others, such as LVHN patient Silvia Buceta of Stroudsburg, have a more local impact. Both have shared information that can save lives.

Clarke, in a first-person story in The New Yorker in 2019, relayed her fight to return to acting after her first burst aneurysm in 2011 in London at just 24 years old and a second in 2013 in New York. Buceta, an active grandmother, suffered her burst aneurysm in 2021. After initial treatment at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Pocono, Buceta was flown by MedEvac helicopter to Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest. Her recovery there was so rapid, she was discharged directly home two weeks later. Both women beat the odds in different ways.

Clarke, in her first ruptured aneurysm, and Buceta in 2021, underwent coil embolization, a minimally invasive neuroradiological technique that involves inserting a catheter through the groin and threading it into the blood vessels in the brain. Platinum coils, about the thickness of a human hair, are packed into the aneurysm to prevent rebleeding.

Walter Jean, MD, Chief of Neurosurgery for Lehigh Valley Fleming Neuroscience Institute, says LVHN offers world-class expertise for brain aneurysm treatment. “Time is brain, and our highly-trained teams are the foundation for the best possible outcomes,” he says. “Couple that with our comprehensive stroke center and you have a powerful combination that truly benefits our communities.”

Lehigh Valley Fleming Neuroscience Institute

Lehigh Valley Fleming Neuroscience Institute

We’re using leading-edge neuroscience to heal and manage a host of conditions related to the brain, spine and peripheral nervous system.

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