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Brain Aneurysm


A brain aneurysm is a potentially life-altering and even threatening condition. If you or a loved one has experienced a brain aneurysm, having all of the information about this condition can help you to manage your concerns as you move forward with treatment and recovery.

What is a Brain Aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm is typically associated with hardening of the arteries. High blood pressure, heredity and head injury are also risk factors, causing a balloon-like bulge in the wall of a brain artery. If this bulge tears and bleeds, nearby brain cells may be damaged. A brain aneurysm can occur in an artery wall that is weak or has a defect.

Symptoms of a Brain Aneurysm

In most cases, there are no brain aneurysm symptoms that could have warned the patient. Until the brain aneurysm bleeds or gets so large that it pushes on adjacent nerves or brain tissue, it usually goes unnoticed. The most common symptom of bleeding is a sudden, severe headache. Other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck stiffness
  • Brief blackout
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Vision or speech problems
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body
  • Clumsiness
  • Jerking movements
  • Seizures

Treating a Brain Aneurysm

A bleeding brain aneurysm needs to be treated as soon as possible. Doing so may save your life. If the bulge has torn and bled, brain aneurysm treatment may not reverse the resulting damage, but treatment may help prevent more bleeding. If the aneurysm is large and pushing on adjacent nerves or brain tissue, treating it will help relieve the pressure. Brain aneurysm treatments include:

  • Open surgery to remove the aneurysm
  • Endovascular procedures

While open surgery may be best for some aneurysms, endovascular procedures work better for others.

Endovascular Procedures for Brain Aneurysm

Endovascular procedures are performed in our neurointerventional radiology department by a specially trained doctor. Here's what to expect:

  • Patients are put to sleep by an anesthesiologist
  • A catheter is guided through the arteries, from the groin to the brain
  • Soft platinum coils are pushed through the catheter and placed into the brain aneurysm
  • The coils act as a plug to prevent blood from re-entering the aneurysm, thereby preventing further bleeding

Although very effective and less risky than open surgery, endovascular treatment leaves a slightly greater risk of the brain aneurysm reforming. For this reason, a follow-up angiogram is required six months following the initial procedure.

For assistance with a physician referral, call 1-888-800-7688. To request additional information from someone at the Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California, email us today.