On March 18, 2015, Lisa Colagrossi died from a brain aneurysm. She was a well- known ABC news reporter in New York City. Only 49 years old Lisa died while she was returning from covering a news story. Why did this have to happen? What is a brain aneurysm?
While an estimated 6 million people in the United States have an unruptured brain aneurysm, or 1 in 50 people. The annual rate of rupture is approximately 8 – 10 per 100,000 people or about 30,000 people in the United States suffer a brain aneurysm rupture. There is a brain aneurysm rupturing every 18 minutes. Ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in about 40% of cases. Of those who survive, about 66% suffer some permanent neurological deficit. Four out of seven people who recover from a ruptured brain aneurysm will have disabilities. Brain aneurysms are most prevalent in people ages 35 to 60, but can occur in children as well. Ruptured brain aneurysms account for 3 – 5% of all new strokes.
Symptoms are rare. Testing isn’t commonly done unless symptoms become prominent. Severe headaches, blurred vision, localized pain, numbness or weakness of an arm or leg, difficulty with memory or speech and even seizures can occur. Nausea and vomiting, drowsiness and/or coma can also be symptoms.
Brain aneurysms are known as cerebral aneurysm. This is a weak area in a blood vessel in the brain that usually enlarges. It is often described as a “ballooning” of the blood vessel. About 1.5 to 5 percent of the general population has or will develop a cerebral aneurysm. More often than not symptoms aren’t produced.
People are usually born with aneurysms. Most develop after age 40. Aneurysms usually develop at branching points of arteries and are caused by constant pressure from blood flow. They often enlarge slowly and become weaker as they grow, just as a balloon becomes weaker as it stretches. Aneurysms may be associated with other types of blood vessel disorders, such as fibromuscular dysplasia, cerebral arteritis or arterial dissection, but these are very unusual. They may run in families, but people are rarely born with a predisposition for aneurysms. Some aneurysms are due to infections, drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine that damage the brain’s blood vessels, or direct brain trauma from an accident.