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Bleeding Brain Aneurysms

When an aneurysm bleeds, most often the bleeding stops quickly on its own. But if the blood touches brain cells, the cells may be damaged. Blood in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) increases pressure on the brain, which can damage brain tissue. Leaked blood may also touch nearby arteries. This may cause these arteries to spasm and narrow, which decreases oxygen flow to the brain. This can cause further damage to the brain.

Cutaway view of blood clot

Damage to brain cells

Blood from an aneurysm can leak into the CSF in the space around the brain (the subarachnoid space). The pool of blood forms a clot, called a hematoma. Blood can irritate, damage, or destroy nearby brain cells. This may cause problems with body functions or mental skills.

Cutaway view of ventricles showing enlarged ventricles and subarachnoid space

Brain fluid buildup

Blood from a torn aneurysm can block CSF circulation. This can lead to fluid buildup and increased pressure on the brain. The open spaces in the brain (ventricles) then enlarge. This problem is called hydrocephalus. It can make a patient lethargic, and confused. To remove leaked blood and trapped CSF, a drain may be placed in the ventricles.

Cutaway view of narrowed artery showing leaked blood and decreased blood flow

Narrowing arteries

An artery may clamp down if leaked blood touches it. This response, called vasospasm, may happen up to 14 days after an aneurysm bleeds. Vasospasm can decrease blood needed in other parts of the brain. It can be fatal. To treat vasospasm, the person's blood pressure and fluid intake are increased. Drugs such as calcium channel blockers can be given in your veins or arteries. This increases the force of the blood and widens the artery.

A note to the family

The health care team will want to prevent further bleeding and control complications. The timing of surgery may depend on your loved one’s condition. After treatment, your loved one will be closely observed to see how well the surgery worked.

© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.