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Neurovascular Program

Patient and family resources

Frequently asked questions

Please select a frequently asked question from the pull-down menu below and then click the "View answer" button, or scroll down the page.

 

Brain aneurysms

What is an aneurysm?

An aneurysm is a weak spot on a blood vessel. It bulges out and looks almost like a thin balloon. Due to the constant pressure of blood flow, an area of weakness in the blood vessel can enlarge. The aneurysm can grow over time and become weaker as it grows.

Aneurysms usually develop at the branching points of the arteries in the brain. Most brain aneurysms are deep in the head, at the base of the brain.

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How did I get this aneurysm?

Nobody knows exactly what causes brain aneurysms. Aneurysms can happen anywhere in the body. Some people can have more than one.

You are more likely to have brain aneurysms if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are female (women are at higher risk than men)
  • Have a family history (two or more people in your immediate family have brain aneurysms)

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How are aneurysms repaired?

There are different types of aneurysms. Your doctor will determine the best treatment for your aneurysm.

There are four common treatments to repair aneurysms:

  • Endovascular coiling
  • Surgical clipping
  • Vessel sacrifice
  • Flow diversion stents

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What is endovascular coiling?

Endovascular coiling is a procedure done in the angio suite. For this treatment, you will have a general anesthetic (be put to sleep). The doctor will put a soft tube (catheter) in your groin artery and guide it into the aneurysm in your brain. The aneurysm will be filled with soft coils made of platinum. When the coils are in place, this stops blood from entering the aneurysm and prevents further bleeding.

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What is clipping?

Clipping is a treatment that uses a metal clip to cut off the aneurysm from the blood vessel. The clip is put onto the aneurysm where it bulges out of the healthy blood vessels. The clip repairs the aneurysm by preventing blood from entering it.

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What is vessel sacrifice?

Vessel sacrifice is a treatment that cuts off the flow of blood to the vessel with the aneurysm. The aneurysm will not bleed because there will be no blood flowing near the aneurysm. Your brain has many blood vessels and will get enough blood even if one vessel is cut off.

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What is flow diversion?

Flow diversion is a treatment to divert the flow of blood away from the aneurysm. For this treatment the doctor will put a small mesh tube (a stent) into the blood vessel with the aneurysm. The tube will divert the flow of blood away from the aneurysm. Over time, the aneurysm will close. The small tube will stay in the blood vessel permanently.

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Carotid artery disease (CAD)

What are the carotid arteries?

The carotid arteries are the major blood vessels in the neck. They bring blood and oxygen to the brain.

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How do carotid arteries get blocked?

The carotid arteries may become narrow when plaque collects inside them. Plaque is made up of cholesterol and other substances. If you have plaque in your carotid arteries, you have something called carotid artery disease (CAD). When there is plaque in an artery, blood clots can form. Blood clots may travel to the brain. If they do, they can block the flow of blood to the brain. This can cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke.

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What is a TIA?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is when blood flow to the brain stops for a short time. A TIA is often called a “mini stroke.” Symptoms happen suddenly. They can last for a few seconds, a few minutes or up to 24 hours. These symptoms can be warning signs of a stroke. Do not ignore these symptoms.

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What is a stroke?

A stroke is when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. When this happens, the brain does not get enough oxygen. The brain needs oxygen to work properly. Stroke symptoms can happen suddenly.

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What are the symptoms of a TIA or stroke?

Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department right away if you have:

  • A sudden severe headache
  • A sudden change in vision
  • Trouble speaking
  • Slurred words when you talk
  • Trouble understanding what people are saying
  • Part of your face drooping
  • One side of your body feels numb or weak in the face, arm or leg
  • A sudden change in your coordination or cannot keep your balance

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Who is more likely to get CAD?

You are more likely to get carotid artery disease with:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Not being physically active
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Stress

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What is carotid artery stenting?

Carotid artery stenting opens up arteries that have become too narrow. The procedure takes one to two hours. Doctors open your arteries with a small, metal mesh tube (called a stent). Using a stent can improve blood flow to your brain. It can also help prevent a stroke in the future.

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Inpatient care

Where in the hospital can I receive inpatient care?

The Neurosurgery and Trauma inpatient unit and specialized Trauma and Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit are both located on the 9th floor of the hospital, in the Cardinal Carter wing.

An interprofessional team provides care for patients and their families on these units.

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