How to Diagnose a Brain Aneurysm
One of the greatest difficulties in brain aneurysm treatment is that a large portion of brain aneurysms remain undiagnosed and unnoticed for very long times because they do not always cause noticeable symptoms.
The Lisa Foundation
Diagnosing Brain Aneurysms
When symptoms do appear, they may be very subtle, or the individual may dismiss them as symptoms of less severe conditions. In many cases, a person with a brain aneurysm only discovers the condition after seeking treatment or testing for a different, unrelated medical issue. Discovering a brain aneurysm in this manner can be startling and scary, but it is ultimately a very fortunate occurrence that dramatically increases the chances of avoiding a fatal rupture.
Imaging Tests for Detecting Brain Aneurysms
Patients rarely receive screenings specifically to look for brain aneurysms. However, their physicians may order different types of screenings if they report symptoms that could indicate brain aneurysms. Patients may also undergo screenings and testing procedures for other unrelated medical issues that ultimately discover unruptured brain aneurysms. In these situations, early detection is a tremendous advantage that can potentially offer treatment options and reduce the risk of a detected aneurysm rupturing in the future.
Noninvasive imaging tests such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA), or Computed Tomography (CT) scans can help physicians detect brain aneurysms. An MRI procedure forms pictures of various internal processes throughout the body using magnetic fields. MRA procedures allow a doctor to see inside a patient’s blood vessels and easily detect structural abnormalities. CT scans generally offer the best way to detect brain aneurysms and diagnose subarachnoid hemorrhages.
If a brain aneurysm has started to leak blood or rupture, a spinal tap procedure can determine how much blood has combined with the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid. A cerebral MRA procedure can provide a physician with a detailed view of the patient’s brain anatomy, specifically the blood vessels and the structure of an identified aneurysm.
Diagnosis from Symptoms
Brain aneurysms can cause a host of neurological symptoms as they grow, including causing blurred or double vision, seizures, loss of consciousness, sudden behavioral and emotional changes, and more. These symptoms appear due to “mass effect,” or the increasing size of the aneurysm pressing against other tissues and nerves in the brain. Depending on the size and location of the aneurysm, a patient may have severe symptoms that appear suddenly, or they may virtually have no symptoms at all until the aneurysm ruptures.
One of the most common symptoms reported by patients with rupturing brain aneurysms is the sudden onset of incredibly intense headaches or having a sudden WHOL or worst headache of life. In many cases, these headaches develop very rapidly with seemingly no warning. “Sentinel bleed,” or the slow trickle of blood from an aneurysm beginning to rupture or increased aneurysm growth can cause these headaches. Severe headaches from aneurysms are very different than typical headaches and can cause incredible pain; anyone who experiences such a headache should seek medical care immediately.
Diagnostic Difficulties with Brain Aneurysms
Unfortunately, many people who develop brain aneurysms have no idea about their condition because they do not have noticeable symptoms until the aneurysm begins to rupture or starts to exert pressure on parts of the brain, generating more noticeable symptoms. Many people in this position may dismiss transient symptoms and only seek treatment when severe symptoms arise. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a brain aneurysm and undergoing prompt screenings are incredibly important to early detection and treatment of aneurysms before they cause fatal results. If you think you may have a brain aneurysm or experiencing symptoms, reach out to your doctor about options for early detection.