Monday, June 27, 2011

Medical Mondays: Aneurysms


Hi everyone! Hope you are having a good Monday so far.

Jennee at Cheap Therapy asked:

If a person has a brain aneurysm, how long would it take before it might kill them?

This an an interesting question and one near and dear to my heart, as a family member of mine suffered (and miraculously survived) a ruptured aneurysm.

First off, what's an aneurysm? Aneurysms occur when part of a blood vessel, usually an artery, stretches out in a balloon-like fashion in a portion of the vessel. The pressure from the blood inside can make the aneurysm even larger, and it can burst.

The causes? They can be hereditary, due to atherosclerosis, diabetes, smoking, aging, and copper deficiency, among other things.

Why are they bad? The problem with arteries bursting is there is a lot of pressure forcing that blood out. It's that force which normally pumps blood into your brain and body, after all. When an artery bleeds out, it's hard for your body to stop the bleeding and "bandage" the broken vessel (which is why we put pressure on cuts, to give broken vessels that chance). But of course, you can't put pressure on internally bleeding vessels. So a ruptured aneurysms can be catastrophic, to say the least.

Where are they found? They can be found in the biggest arteries of your body (like the aorta) and in smaller but important vessels that supply blood to the brain. These intracranial aneurysms are the ones that Jennee is asking about.

So if a person has one, will they definitely die from it? The answer is...not necessarily. Having an aneurysm does not automatically mean you'll die from it. It depends on a lot of factors.

The larger the aneurysm, the higher the chance it could rupture. Small ones are less likely to rupture; larger ones (bigger than 1 cm across) have a much higher risk.

Also, the rupture risk changes depending on which vessel in the head is involved, how healthy the person is to begin with, any bleeding problems, if they're on a blood thinner...so again, it depends. But one this is for sure, a ruptured brain aneurysm is a very, very serious thing and carries a very real death risk and morbidity (that's permanent non-fatal stuff like speech, movement, and memory problems) risk.

Thanks Jennee for a great question!

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.

45 comments:

Sarah said...

The idea of this is pretty terrifying. Very well-explained, Lydia!

Connie said...

Thanks for the info, Lydia.

BTW, assuming Jennee is a writer a looking to kill off a character, a brain AVM is a another option. (My son's 19 year old friend had this. I'd never heard of it. Miraculously, the young man survived multiple bleeds and even though it was fairly deep in the brain they were able to remove it.)

Jessica Bell said...

Excellent info! You know, every time I read these posts I think of how much better at testifying in a court of law you would be than Temperance Brennan from Bones ;o) xx

mooderino said...

Another great post.
cheers,
mood

salarsenッ said...

This was very informative. I've always wondered about this but never asked anyone or did research myself. BTW - for some reason that picture gives me the willies. :)

Jennee said...

1) The picture makes me shiver!

2) Great information. I always assumed it was immediate death as they show in tv shows and movies. This information is really helpful.

3)What is this AVM that Connie is talking about? I've never heard of this.

I have to rethink my character and his death...

Thanks for posting about this!

E.J. Wesley said...

I think I just had one fiddling with Blogger this morning ... :-)

Old Kitty said...

Glad to hear your family member who suffered this is ok! It sounds absolutely awful and very painful!!

Take care
x

Clarissa Draper said...

Another great post, Lydia. Thank you.

Matthew MacNish said...

Good to hear the deets, because I think this is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot.

Deb Salisbury said...

Ah-ha! I didn't know it ballooned before it burst. Very interesting.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I had heard about aneurysms, but didn't know what exactly they were and the risk involved. Thanks for the info.

Jonene Ficklin said...

Thanks for another great Medical Monday. The human body is an amazing, mysterious creation and I love learning more!

Munk said...

Good one Lydia, gotta go get me some Cu.

Erin Cole said...

Good stuff, Lydia. Thanks!
I'm happy to see that kids wasn't listed as one of the causes ; )

Carol Kilgore said...

I love Medical Mondays!

Alleged Author said...

These have always freaked me out. So glad your family member survived. I think many of us have the misconception that an aneurysm equals death. I know I did. Thank you for sharing!

Meredith said...

I've always wondered about aneurisms. How scary! I'm so glad your family member survived!

Miranda Hardy said...

Great information, and they seem so common these days.

Linda Gray said...

So scary. It's good to know they're not necessarily fatal, though. Copper deficiency? Off to Google dietary sources of copper now!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks and I'll try to avoid one of those.

Michael Offutt said...

My friend's dad had a brain aneurysm that killed him in 15 minutes. What a way to go.

lbdiamond said...

Nice info, Lydia--you explain things so well. Awesome!

Colene Murphy said...

Yipes! How scary! Good to know not everyone dies from them. I thought it was a death sentence no matter what.

Bossy Betty said...

Having known people who have died from these, I found this very interesting. Yikes.

notesfromnadir said...

I can see how this would make a very dramatic way to get rid of a character.

Suze said...

I just read this post, a bit shake in the boots, and honestly don't know how to respond ...

Heather said...

I've often wondered about this because I've been thinking about using it in one of my novels. Thank you so much for the info!

vbtremper said...

I agree that this is a terrifying topic. When I was pregnant with my first child, a fellow teacher collapsed in her classroom, in front of all her kindergarten students, and did not make it. She was in her late 20s. It was just so sad and so sudden.

-Vicki

Krispy said...

Okay, these are a lot scarier than I thought they were. :P As usual, thanks for the info.

Olga said...

One of my friends passed away from an aneurysm at quite a young age. As I understand, it's practically impossible to foresee it.

M Pax said...

A gal I went to school with died of one in high school. We'd known each other since about 1st grade, when we all joined Bluebirds. It was so sudden and unexpected. She was very healthy. Very athletic.

Joanne Fritz said...

Thanks for posting this Lydia. I am a survivor of a ruptured brain aneurysm (and I'm also writing a YA novel about someone who survives one). Thanks for presenting the info in a clear and precise manner. So many people misunderstand aneurysms.

For anyone considering writing about it: please do your research (bafound.org is a good place to start), as everyone's experience is different. Mine was a basilar tip, and I had a Grade III subarachnoid hemorrhage. Spent three weeks in the hospital, then another three months recuperating at home. But I didn't really feel like myself again for a year and a half. I was also blind in one eye from a side effect called Terson's Syndrome (you can Google all of these terms). Since cleared up.

And I was one of the lucky ones!

Jennifer Hillier said...

Such interesting info, both in your post and here in the comments!

Scary stuff.

Leslie Rose said...

I lost someone to an aneurysm. I always thought of it as a silent thief. Thank you for explaining it.

Karen Lange said...

Oh my, this is sobering info. If it must be explained, though, I'd rather you were the one doing it! :)

Nas Dean said...

Thanks for explaining this, Lydia. Just the idea that it could happen is so horrifying.

Susan Fields said...

We have a family history of aneurysms - they're so scary. Thanks for the great lesson here.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I'm like Susan. Aneurysms have always frightened me. But facts are the first defense against fear, right? Thanks again, Lydia -- your big fan - Roland

LisaAnn said...

I love Medical Mondays!!

Emily Rose said...

Great post!

J.L. Campbell said...

Interesting stuff as usual. Never know when I'll need to afflict one of my characters.

Jayne said...

Yikes--scary stuff. Man our bodies are weird. Excellent explanation, Lydia. :)

ed pilolla said...

aneurysms are sure scary. for something like, say, heart disease, right or wrong, there's a feeling that we can predict those who are susceptible to it.
aneurysms just happen, leaving us at the mercy of fate. literarily speaking, which i'm probably not qualified to do but anyway, having a character's life hang in the balance from a freak thing such as an aneurysm leaves us wondering whether the character will get a second chance or won't they? aneurysms remind us how precious and unpredictable life is, which certainly is a strong and eternal truth in this world, as well as in stories.

Dawn Simon said...

I'm pretty sure I've told you this, but you have such cool posts! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

 
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