What is an aneurysm?

31 October 2010


Good day Chris. I listen to 702 here in Johannesburg regularly. My wife sadly passed away at age 49 due to a brain aneurysm. This was very recently. I ask the neuro surgeon to explain what happened. He tried to explain but I was emotional and maybe did not listen properly. They declared my wife brain dead and I switched off the life support system.
Could you please explain to me what happens when the blood vessel bursts ,and what then actually what happens to your brain, body and other organs.
I would really appreciate this explanation and maybe understand the situation better.
I thank you


We put this question to Dr Suzy Lishman:

Suzy - Thanks for that question, Fred. I'm sorry to hear about your wife, my condolences. Well, an aneurysm, as you know, is a bulge in the blood vessel wall. It's a bit like a balloon that blows up and it becomes weak, and so it can burst. When that happens, blood leaves the blood vessel and goes out into the brain. The effect it has on the brain depends a little bit on exactly where the vessel is, in relation to the layers of the brain. If it bursts into the main matter of the brain itself, then it will destroy that brain tissue and that would present with somebody having a stroke for example. It could burst into the surroundings of the brain, the subdural space, and then it can cause an extremely bad headache because blood is very irritant and it can cause pain over the surface of the brain. But when somebody suffers a fatal aneurysm, as it sounds like your wife did, the blood destroys the brain so that it can no longer make the body function and breath, and somebody would stop breathing instantly because of the damage to the brain. So it's like a large stroke that kills bits of the brain that were essential for life.

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