WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Brain aneurysms, such as the one that led to the death of Stamford resident and WABC-TV Channel 7 reporter Lisa Colagrossi last week, are typically asymptomatic and difficult to predict, doctors say.
A brain aneurysm, basically a bulging in a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the brain, is something that can burst out of the blue, often with no warning signs. "It's tragic what happened to the WABC reporter," said Dr. Jeffrey Berman, Chief of Neurology at White Plains Hospital. "But people need to bear in mind that this is not a common occurance."
He said aneurysms typically occur among those in the 35 to 60 age range, affecting women slightly more than men.
Often, you can have an aneurysm and not know it. In fact, most times it won't affect you. "About one in every 50 people have them," said Dr. Berman, "But only a small percentage will have a situation that ruptures."
It's when the aneurysm "balloons," as Dr. Berman explained, that people will experience acute, sudden pain, what some call the worst headache of their life, often with slurred speech, weakness on one side of the body and nausea. This is when you need to spring into action and call 9-l-l immediately.
The fatality rate once the aneurysm bursts is high. According to Dr. Omar N. Syed, a neurosurgeon at the Mount Kisco Medical Group in Mount Kisco, more than a third of patients die before ever reaching the hospital and those that survive often end up with some kind of disability.
The best way to prevent an aneurysm from happening is to stay healthy, watch your blood pressure (high blood pressure has been associated with ruptures) and avoid smoking. Family history, while a risk factor, doesn't necessarily mean anything, say both experts.
The good news: Just because you're diagnosed with an aneurysm doesn't mean anything fatal will happen...as long as your doctor watches and monitors it closely and you take note of any new and unusual symptoms, added Dr. Syed. If you have one, you should be referred to a neurosurgeon or a neuro-interventional specialist/radiologist where you can be followed up with non-invasive imaging like an MRI or CAT scan.
You can always ask your doctor, too, about a preventative screening though much depends on your family history and/or other risk factors.
For more information, go to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation at http://www.bafound.org/.
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