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!