Cerebral aneurysms may hide in the brain all your life or manifest themselves in a sudden, violent fashion. Professor Giulio Maira, consultant neurosurgeon at Humanitas, spoke about this in an interview for Tg2’s “Medicina 33”.
“An aneurysm is a gradual dilation of an artery that carries blood to the brain. Due to congenital reasons, this artery is weaker and it slowly gives under the blood pressure, until it forms a sort of balloon”.
When the balloon ruptures in the artery, blood floods the space surrounding the brain. “A subarachnoid hemorrhage, that is to say the minimal rupture of an aneurysm, is characterized by the onset of a very violent headache. The strongest in the patients’ lives, followed by neck rigidity. Nausea and vomit may also occur. If the hemorrhage is more intense, damages are way more serious. Mortality is up to 40% and the 2/3 of the survivors suffer from permanent damages”.
Between 2 and 5% of the population is a carrier of aneurysm. Which are the risk factors?
“Smoking, high blood pressure, similar cases in one’s family and being female. Moreover, studies show that taking drugs (such as ecstasy or cocaine) really increases the risk of stroke and, consequently, of hemorrhage. If a young carrier of a harmless aneurysm takes a tab of ecstasy, they may risk a rupture with severe consequences”.
“An early diagnosis or the correct interpretation of the littlest swellings is paramount. It allows doctors to treat the aneurysm without coming to a serious prognosis”, Prof. Maira explains.
Depending on the case, the surgery may be a minimally invasive one, that consists in closing the aneurysm with a metal clip, or an endovascular surgery, during which a catheter is introduced into the arteries via a stent or some spirals to allow the formation of a thrombus and exclude the aneurysm from the artery. It is important to go to a center that offers both endovascular and minimally invasive surgery.