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Cerebral (Brain) Aneurysm

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What is a Brain Aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm, also called a cerebral aneurysm or an intracranial aneurysm, is a weakened, bulging area in the wall of an artery in the brain. Brain aneurysms usually occur in the front part of the brain and are at risk of rupturing.

Types of Brain Aneurysms

  • Saccular, also known as berry—the most common type, occurring in 90 percent of brain aneurysms, shaped like a “berry” with a narrow stem
  • Fusiform—bulging out on all sides
  • Dissecting—resulting from a tear in the inner layer of the artery wall, which can block blood flow or cause one side of the artery wall to balloon out

What Are the Symptoms of a Brain Aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm may not have symptoms until it ruptures. However, there may be symptoms prior, including:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Eye pain
  • Problems with vision

When a brain aneurysm ruptures, this commonly results in a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH)—bleeding into the space between the brain and the membranes that cover the brain. This is a medical emergency. Symptoms of an SAH include:

  • Severe headache or stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Change in or loss of consciousness
  • Weakness or numbness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Difficulty seeing, talking, or understanding
  • Difficulty with balance or walking
  • Dizziness or loss of coordination

90 percent of brain aneurysms are small (less than four-tenths of an inch in diameter) and do not show symptoms. Smaller aneurysms may have a lower risk of rupture.

What Causes a Brain Aneurysm?

Currently, experts do not fully understand the cause of brain aneurysms. We do know that they are associated with two factors:

  • An abnormal breaking down in the wall of an artery in the brain
  • Pressure from blood being pumped through the arteries in the brain

Medical conditions such as high blood pressure and smoking will put you at higher risk for developing brain aneurysms.

UR Medicine's Treatments for Cerebral (Brain) Aneurysm


A brain aneurysm is often diagnosed after it has ruptured or by chance during diagnostic examinations. In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, your provider may perform one of these exams:

  • Digital subtraction angiography (DSA) to get an image of the blood vessels in the brain to detect a problem with blood flow. A small, thin tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in the leg and passed up to the blood vessels in the brain. A contrast dye is injected through the catheter and x-ray images are taken of the blood vessels.
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan) uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce detailed images of the body.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of the body.
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) uses a combination of magnetic resonance technology (MRI) and intravenous (IV) contrast dye to view blood vessels.


Treatment varies with each patient, with the goal of decreasing the risk of a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Treatment may include observation or surgery. The two primary surgeries are:

  • Open craniotomy (surgical clipping)—part of the skull is removed to expose the aneurysm, and a metal clip is placed to prevent blood flow into the aneurysm.
  • Endovascular coiling or coil embolization—a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin and moved up into the blood vessels in the brain. Tiny platinum coils are moved through the catheter, which conform to the shape of the aneurysm. The coiled aneurysm becomes clotted off (embolization), preventing rupture.

What Sets Us Apart?

UR Medicine offers advanced stroke treatments that are not available at most hospitals.

UR Medicine's Comprehensive Stroke Center offers world-class treatment and prevention of stroke, including its creation of the Rochester metropolitan area and surrounding region’s only state-of-the art Mobile Stroke Unit and a dedicated Neuromedicine Intensive Care Unit.

Our highly trained, nationally recognized stroke and neurocritical care team provides comprehensive care for all types of stroke and cerebrovascular diseases (related to blood flow in the brain).

State-of-the-art neuroimaging capabilities and immediate access to all subspecialists offer patients the most sophisticated medical and surgical treatments for the best outcomes.


Our care team is here for you. Find a UR Medicine expert and get care now.

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