The human brain needs the most of what you eat and have in the body. It consumes nearly a third of the energy even during a resting state. Even though it is only 5% of total body weight, it commands more than 20% of the volume of blood pumped out by the heart.
Nature has put the largest blood vessels at the brainstem for this reason. These blood vessels are capable of hijacking whatever the brain needs in different situations. They contract and expand according to the body’s activity and ensure that the heart pumps enough to meet what the brain needs. For this purpose, these vessels have three very important properties - elasticity, smooth muscles, and a system of electrical and chemical signals that allows all this to happen.
But not all people are lucky enough to have a perfect system. People who are born with vascular defects may have problems with the elastic layer of these blood vessels. The weaker portion of the blood vessel can therefore begin to balloon, causing a condition known as cerebral or brain aneurysms. High blood pressure, accumulation of fatty deposits in vessels, smoking and drug abuse are other causes that may lead to aneurysms.
The most feared aspect of a brain aneurysm is rupturing. Rupturing may lead to either of the following conditions:
- Bleeding into the membranes that enclose the brain.
- A clot in the brain that obstructs flow of blood in the brain.
- Build up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, a condition known as hydrocephalus.
Another complication of a ruptured aneurysm is vasospasms. These are contractions of the blood vessels, resulting in a limited supply of blood to the brain.
Only a third of the patients with a ruptured aneurysm survive. Even among those who do, major neurological problems occur frequently. Hemorrhages show statistics of death in 60% of the cases. Hydrocephalus can be treated only by placing a shunt to bypass the bulge.
Microvascular clipping involves locating the aneurysm by removing a portion of the skull under anesthesia. A small metal clothespin-like clip is placed at the neck of the aneurysm to cut off the flow of blood to it. The skull is then placed back. Where the entire artery has been damaged by aneurysm, the surgeon generally prefers occlusion of the entire artery leading to it.
Endovascular embolization is once-in-a-lifetime treatment that involves insertion of a hollow plastic catheter in an artery. Detachable coils or latex balloons are moved up to the location of the aneurysm. Once released, they fill the aneurysm and block it. The blood is left to clot and the aneurysm is destroyed.
Brain surgery is a highly specialized field and carries enormous operative and post-operative risks. In many cases, it carries more risk than the aneurysm itself, and it may be advisable to leave brain aneurysms alone.
Although there are no known preventive measures, herbs and vitamins for promoting mental focus can play a crucial role in improving brain health and managing cerebral aneurysms that have lower risks of rupturing. Mental focus is one of the major brain functions affected by any abnormality in the brain.
Even after surgical intervention, there is a dire need for post-operative care. Long-term monitoring of blood pressure and other vascular disorders and medications like anticonvulsants and calcium channel blockers may become a rule rather than an exception.