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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Brain Aneurysm - Topic Overview

How is a brain aneurysm diagnosed?

Because unruptured brain aneurysms often do not cause any symptoms, many are discovered in people who are being treated for a different condition.

If your doctor believes that you have a brain aneurysm, you may have the following tests:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan can help identify bleeding in the brain. Sometimes a lumbar puncture may be used if your doctor suspects that you have a ruptured cerebral aneurysm with a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
  • Computed tomography angiogram (CTA) scan. CTA is a more precise method of evaluating blood vessels than a standard CT scan. CTA uses a combination of CT scanning, special computer techniques, and contrast material (dye) injected into the blood to produce images of blood vessels.
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). Similar to a CTA, MRA uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to provide pictures of blood vessels inside the body. As with CTA and cerebral angiography, a dye is often used during MRA to make blood vessels show up more clearly.
  • Cerebral angiogram. During this X-ray test, a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel in the groin or arm and moved up through the vessel into the brain. A dye is then injected into the cerebral artery. As with the above tests, the dye allows any problems in the artery, including aneurysms, to be seen on the X-ray. Although this test is more invasive and carries more risk than the above tests, it is the best way to locate small (less than 5 mm) brain aneurysms.

How is it treated?

Your doctor will think about several things before deciding the best treatment for you. Things that will determine the type of treatment you receive include your age, size of the aneurysm, any additional risk factors, and your overall health.

Because the risk of a small (less than 10 mm) aneurysm rupturing is low and surgery for a brain aneurysm is often risky, your doctor may want to continue to observe your condition rather than do surgery. If your aneurysm is large or causing pain or other symptoms, though, or if you have had a previous ruptured aneurysm, your doctor may recommend surgery.

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