What to do When a Brain Anuerysm Ruptures
Brain aneurysms often remain undetected for a long time. Many people who have brain aneurysms have no symptoms at all or only subtle symptoms that come and go, often dismissed as minor health issues. However, when a brain aneurysm begins to rupture, it can lead to a very sudden onset of severe symptoms.
What You Need to Know About a Brain Aneurysm Rupture
Most brain aneurysms develop in the arteries in the space between the surface of the brain and the skull. This space is full of delicate veins and fluids that act as a cushion for the brain, allowing it to essentially float inside the skull without touching the rough interior surface. When a brain aneurysm ruptures in this area, it is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which means a hemorrhage in the area between the brain and the skull. The resulting bleeding may extend into the brain itself.
Possible Signs of a Rupturing Brain Aneurysm
The hallmark sign of a subarachnoid hemorrhage is an intense headache, often referred to as a WHOL, or “worst headache of one’s life.” Unlike a typical headache caused by a cold or allergies that generally involves a painful feeling of pressure, a WHOL is a cripplingly painful headache often described as being struck by lightning or an intense stabbing pain inside the head. When the brain experiences a sudden rise of intracranial pressure due to increased arterial blood pressure, the result is an incredibly painful headache that can induce vomiting, bodily weakness, and loss of energy.
Some individuals experience less severe symptoms that gradually increase in frequency and severity as a brain aneurysm slowly ruptures. Some of these slower-onset symptoms can include behavioral and emotional disturbances, tingling and numbness in the face, pain above or behind one eye, or various other symptoms that mimic the symptoms of other less serious conditions. When a brain aneurysm begins to rupture, these symptoms can escalate dramatically, and the victim will usually experience a WHOL or even a complete loss of consciousness.
Prognosis for Ruptured Brain Aneurysms
The outcome of a ruptured brain aneurysm depends on several factors:
- The age of the patient
- The patient’s overall health
- The existence of preexisting medical conditions that may complicate treatment
- The location of the aneurysm
- The size of the aneurysm
- The extent of the bleeding
- The quality of treatment following the rupture
Unfortunately, statistics paint a fairly grim picture when it comes to survival rates from ruptured brain aneurysms. Most people who experience subarachnoid hemorrhages will die before reaching a hospital. Roughly 50% of people who experience ruptured brain aneurysms will die within two weeks, even with the best possible treatment. Those who manage to survive ruptured brain aneurysms generally experience permanent brain damage, which may entail some degree of physical or mental impairment. Only a small percentage of people who experience brain aneurysm ruptures will return to their pre-event level of physical and mental function.
The brain is an incredibly complex and highly sensitive organ that requires carefully controlled environmental conditions to function properly. A brain aneurysm causes an intense increase in pressure that the brain simply cannot withstand. Even brief interruptions in normal brain activity can have profound effects. Subsequent care following a rupture is also subject to countless possible complications and, even in the best of cases, can only mitigate the harmful effects of a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Another layer of complexity surrounding brain aneurysms is that there is really no way to tell whether a brain aneurysm will rupture in the future. It is possible for a small aneurysm to remain intact and never rupture, but it is just as likely for it to grow and rupture with devastating results. Ultimately, it is impossible to say one way or another whether any brain aneurysm could rupture in the future.
Learning to Cope After a Ruptured Aneurysm
A ruptured aneurysm can be devastating, but as long as the brain is alive, it can learn. It’s important to acknowledge that some aspects of life will change, but know there is a vast support system ready to help with the challenges you and your loved ones will face after a ruptured aneurysm. For resources and support, find help with the Lisa Foundation.