Angiogram showing a high-resolution view of an aneurysm.
Sometimes the wall of an artery in the brain develops a weak spot, and the vessel bulges outward. This is known as a cerebral aneurysm. Aneurysms are sometimes found incidentally, during a brain scan for other reasons, but unfortunately, they more often come to light when they burst, causing bleeding in the brain.
Cerebral aneurysms are very rare in children and may not cause any symptoms until they burst, or rupture. Any of these symptoms may indicate a ruptured aneurysm:
- an unusually severe headache (the most common symptom)
- stiff neck
- sensitivity to light
- neurologic impairment
- loss of consciousness
How we care for cerebral aneurysms at Boston Children's Hospital
Ruptured brain aneurysms can be life-threatening. Once we’ve stabilized the child in the intensive care unit, we treat them immediately to minimize damage to the brain. If the aneurysm has not burst, our approach is based on careful imaging to determine the aneurysm’s location and size and the risks of treatment, as well as the child’s overall health. If an aneurysm is small and imaging studies show nothing worrisome, treatment might pose more of a risk than the aneurysm itself, and the best course of action might be careful observation. The Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventions Center has pioneered the practice of performing an additional imaging angiogram after treatment, before waking the child from anesthesia, to verify that the aneurysm has been closed off.