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Surgery for a Brain Aneurysm

Surgery for an aneurysm is done as soon as possible if it just bled. It is usually not urgent if the aneurym has not bled. One of 2 types of surgery is generally used. In open surgery, a portion of your skull is removed. In an endovascular procedure, your surgeon goes through the blood vessel leading toward your aneurysm. Treatment may not reverse any damage already done if the aneurysm has ruptured. The goal is to prevent the aneurysm from bleeding.

Side view of head with skull inside. Four small holes are in skull at corners of rectangle. Bone inside rectangle is briefly removed.

Open surgery

Your surgeon reaches your brain through your skull. First, you receive sleep medicine (anesthesia) during the surgery. Then, after a scalp incision, small holes are made in your skull. The bone between the holes is cut and lifted away. The membrane (dura) is peeled back. Trapped blood and cerebrospinal fluid may be removed. Your surgeon closes off (clips) your aneurysm. Or the artery leading to the aneurysm is sealed off (occluded). The dura and the piece of skull are put back in place. A device that measures the pressure inside your skull or that drains your spinal fluid may be left in one of the small holes.

Clipping the aneurysm

Your surgeon may put a clip on your aneurysm where it bulges from the artery. This keeps blood from going into the aneurysm. As a result, future bleeding is stopped and nearby brain tissue is protected from more damage. Your surgeon makes sure that the clip is secure before finishing the surgery. This method is done through open surgery.

Occlusion and bypass

It may be best to stop blood flow through the artery leading to your aneurysm. This is called occlusion. In most cases, it is done as open surgery. Sometimes occlusion is combined with a bypass. A bypass reroutes blood around the occlusion. It brings the blood to the part of your brain that had been fed by the damaged artery. A small blood vessel is used for the bypass.

Endovascular procedure

An endovascular procedure may be best for some aneurysms. This is done in an X-ray lab by a specially trained doctors such as an interventional neuroradiologist), neurosurgeon, and neurologist. Anesthesia is given to block pain. Then a catheter is guided through the arteries from your groin to your brain. Coils are threaded into your aneurysm. The coils cause a blood clot to form in your aneurysm. This seals it off. This s a very effective and less risky way to treat aneurysms than open surgery. But there is a slightly greater risk that the aneurysm will re-form when compared to clipping. Not all aneurysms can be treated bu an endovascular approach.

Risks and complications

Risks and complications include:

  • Blood clots in the brain, or stroke

  • Brain swelling or bleeding

  • The surgery can fail to occlude the aneurysm

  • Weakness, paralysis, or loss of vision

  • Confusion, loss of speech, loss of memory

  • Infection

  • Spasm in a blood vessel that limits blood flow which can cause you to have a stroke

  • Jerking or abnormal movements, loss of consciousness (seizures)

  • Swelling of the brain (hydrocephalus)

  • Coma

  • Death


Online Medical Reviewer: Hanrahan, John, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jasmin, Luc, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/14/2015
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