An aneurysm is a weak area in a blood vessel that usually enlarges. It’s often described as a “ballooning” of the blood vessel. Aneurysms usually develop at branching points of arteries and are caused by constant pressure from blood flow. They often enlarge slowly and become weaker as they grow, just as a balloon becomes weaker as it stretches. Aneurysms may be associated with other types of blood vessel disorders, such as fibromuscular dysplasia, cerebral arteritis or arterial dissection, but these are very unusual.
An aneurysm is usually located along the major arteries deep within brain structures. When approaching an aneurysm during surgery, normal brain tissue must be carefully spread apart to expose it. Aneurysms can occur in the front part of the brain (anterior circulation) or the back part of the brain (posterior circulation).
Unruptured brain aneurysms are typically completely asymptomatic. These aneurysms are typically small in size, usually less than one half inch in diameter. However, large unruptured aneurysms can occasionally press on the brain or the nerves stemming out of the brain and may result in various neurological symptoms. Any individual experiencing some or all of the following symptoms, regardless of age, should undergo immediate and careful evaluation by a neurologist.
About 1.5 to 5 percent of the general population has or will develop a cerebral aneurysm. About 3 to 5 million people in the United States have cerebral aneurysms, but most are not producing any symptoms. Between 0.5 and 3 percent of people with a brain aneurysm may suffer from bleeding.
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