Smoking Linked With Deadly Brain Aneurysms
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 16, 2000 (Atlanta) -- The deadly effects of smoking have again been
shown, this time linked with causing cerebral aneurysms, a weakening of the
wall of the brain's blood vessels that can potentially rupture and cause stroke
and often death. In fact, smoking may cause multiple aneurysms to form in the
brain, according to a study presented on Friday at a stroke conference in New
Calling his findings statistically significant, lead author Satish
Krishnamurthy, MD, tells WebMD, "While I don't think you can say that
smoking definitely causes rupture of aneurysms, it's definitely a factor very
closely related. [The data also] mean that smoking not only created the
rupture, but also created the aneurysm. That's the new finding."
In the study of 275 people with aneurysms, the Pennsylvania State University
College of Medicine research team found that 72% of all aneurysm patients were
smokers, and 40% had high blood pressure. Of those with ruptured
aneurysms, 58% had hypertension, and 71% smoked.
Smoking was also linked as a possible cause of multiple aneurysms in
patients. Of the 67 people who had several aneurysms, 75% had a history of
smoking, says Krishnamurthy, a neurosurgical resident with the Milton S.
Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine. "Cerebral
aneurysms are considered very deadly. Fifty percent of those with ruptured
aneurysms will die. Of those who get to the hospital alive, only a small number
have no permanent disability," he adds.
"The basic message is that smoking is bad," he adds. "It can
cause sudden death by causing aneurysms. It can lead to sudden death, or, if
you reach the hospital, only 30% will come out without any disability. It's a
pretty devastating disease."
For objective commentary, WebMD turned to Daniel Barrow, MD, chair of
neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine. "There has been
controversy over the years over the exact role that smoking and hyptertension
play in regard to aneurysm formation and aneurysm rupture. What remains a real
problem is that we don't really know what causes aneurysms. It may well be that
individuals are born with a weak area in the wall of the blood vessel that
predisposes them to aneurysm formation, and the aneurysm forms during life.
That process may be influenced by environmental factors such as hypertension or
smoking. Those people who are predisposed may or may not develop an aneurysm.
This is the type of study that suggests that type of relationship ... raises
your level of suspicion and provides yet another reason to tell people not to
- Researchers say smoking may cause the brain's blood vessels to develop
multiple aneurysms, or weak spots. These weak spots can rupture and cause
bleeding that can lead to stroke, disability, and death.
- Doctors note that half the patients who suffer a ruptured aneurysm in their
brain will die. Most of the survivors have permanent disability.
- Observers say they are not certain whether some people are born more
vulnerable to brain aneurysms than others. If so, environmental factors like
smoking and high blood pressure may trigger the problem.