What to Expect During Recovery
A brain aneurysm rupture is a major life event that carries on long after initial treatment. Learn what to expect upon arriving home from the hospital and starting the journey of recovery.
The Lisa Foundation
Brain Aneurysm Repair - Discharge
You had a brain aneurysm. An aneurysm is a weak area in the wall of a blood vessel that bulges or balloons out. Once it reaches a certain size, it has a high chance of bursting. It can leak blood and cause bleeding along the surface of the brain. This is also called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Sometimes bleeding can occur inside the brain.
You had surgery to prevent the aneurysm from bleeding or to treat the aneurysm after it bled. There are two types of surgery:
- Open craniotomy, during which the doctor makes a hole in your skull to place a clip on the base of the aneurysm.
- Endovascular repair, during which the doctor does surgery on areas of your body through a blood vessel.
What to Expect at Home
If you had bleeding before, during, or after surgery you may have some short- or long-term problems. These may be mild or severe. For many people, these problems decrease over time.
If you had either type of surgery you may:
- Feel sad, angry, or very nervous. This is normal.
- Have had a seizure and will take medicine to prevent another one.
- Have headaches that may continue for a while. This is common.
What to expect after craniotomy and placement of a clip:
- It will take 3 to 6 weeks to fully recover. If you had bleeding from your aneurysm this may take longer. You may feel tired for up to 12 or more weeks.
- If you had a stroke or brain injury from the bleeding, you may have permanent problems such as trouble with speech or thinking, muscle weakness, or numbness.
- Problems with your memory are common, but these may improve.
- You may feel dizzy or confused, or your speech may not be normal after the surgery. If you did not have any bleeding, these problems should get better.
What to expect after endovascular repair:
- You may have pain in your groin area.
- You may have some bruising around and below the incision.
You may be able to start daily activities, such as driving a car, within 1 or 2 weeks if you did not have any bleeding. Ask your doctor which daily activities are safe for you to do.
Make plans to have help at home while you recover.
Follow a healthy lifestyle.
- If you have high blood pressure, keep it under control.
- DO NOT smoke.
- Ask your doctor if it is OK for you to drink alcohol.
- Ask your doctor when it is OK to start sexual activity.
Take your seizure medicine if any was prescribed for you. Your doctor may refer you to a speech, physical, or occupational therapist to help you recover from any brain damage.
If the doctor put a catheter in through your groin (endovascular surgery), it is okay to walk short distances on a flat surface. Limit going up and down stairs to around two times a day for 2 to 3 days. DO NOT do yard work, drive, or play sports until your doctor says it is okay to do so.
Your health care provider will tell you when your dressing should be changed. DO NOT take a bath or swim for one week.
If you have a small amount of bleeding from the incision, lie down and put pressure where it bleeds for 30 minutes.
Be sure you understand any instructions about taking medicines such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), aspirin, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if you have:
- A severe headache or a headache that gets worse and you feel dizzy
- A stiff neck
- Nausea and vomiting
- Eye pain
- Problems with your eyesight (from blindness to peripheral vision problems to double vision)
- Speech problems
- Problems thinking or understanding
- Problems noticing things around you
- Changes in your behavior
- Feel weak or lose consciousness
- Loss of balance or coordination or loss of muscle use
- Weakness or numbness of an arm, leg, or your face.
Also, call your doctor if you have:
- Bleeding at the incision site that does not go away after you apply pressure
- An arm or leg that changes color, becomes cool to touch, or becomes numb
- Redness, pain, or yellow or green discharge in or around the incision site
- A fever higher than 101°F (38.3°C) or chills
Make sure to follow-up with your surgeon's office within 2 weeks of being discharged from the hospital.
Ask your doctor if you need long-term follow-up and tests, including CT scans or MRIs of your head.
If you had a cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) shunt placed after aneurysm surgery, you will need regular follow-ups to make sure it functions well.