Actor Tom Sizemore is in critical condition after suffering a brain aneurysm.
His manager described the situation as “wait and see” with the 61 year old in intensive care.
What is a brain aneurysm, how are they treated and what is the outlook for patients?
What is a brain aneurysm?
An aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel caused by a weakness in the blood vessel wall.
As blood passes through the weakened blood vessel, blood pressure causes a small area to swell outward like a balloon.
The Brain Aneurysm Foundation in the US compares it to a weak spot in the inner tube of a bicycle tire.
Because the artery walls are thin, the aneurysm is at risk of bursting.
What happens when a brain aneurysm bursts?
The first symptom is usually a painful headache.
It has been described as a “thunder headache”, says the NHS, similar to a sudden blow to the head.
Other possible symptoms include vomiting, pain when examining the light, loss of consciousness and a stiff neck.
When an aneurysm ruptures, blood spills into the space between the skull and the brain.
This is called a hemorrhage or hemorrhagic stroke and is considered a medical emergency.
What are the symptoms of an unruptured brain aneurysm?
Unruptured brain aneurysms normally have no symptoms.
However, they sometimes cause symptoms if they are particularly large or press on tissues or nerves inside the brain.
According to the NHS, symptoms can include visual disturbances, pain above or around your eye, numbness or weakness on one side of your face and difficulties with speech, memory and concentration.
How are brain aneurysms treated?
Not all aneurysms are at risk of rupture. When an unruptured aneurysm is considered low risk, it will usually be monitored rather than treated because the risk of surgery often outweighs the benefit.
An aneurysm that is at risk or has already ruptured can be treated with coiling or surgical clipping.
Coiling involves filling the aneurysm with a series of platinum coils threaded up through the patient’s groin.
The coils prevent more blood from flowing into the aneurysm and putting pressure on the weakened walls.
Surgical clipping involves removing part of the skull and placing a metal clip over the ‘neck’ of the aneurysm to stop blood flow to it.
The same treatments are used for aneurysms that have already ruptured.
Who is at risk of developing a brain aneurysm?
Brain aneurysms can develop in anyone at any age, but are more common in people over 40.
It is also more common in women.
People who smoke and people with high blood pressure are at greater risk of brain aneurysms.
Excessive alcohol consumption and drug use, particularly cocaine, are also associated with brain aneurysms.
What is the outlook after a ruptured brain aneurysm?
Ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in about 50 percent of cases, according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.
About 15% of people with a ruptured aneurysm die before reaching the hospital. Most deaths are due to rapid and massive brain damage from the initial hemorrhage.
Of those who survive, about two-thirds suffer permanent neurological problems.