Although aneurysms are widely considered to be of congenital origin there is still debate as to whether some at least might be formed de novo during life. A review of all 49 reported cases plus one previously unpublished case reveals common clinical features and might aid in the management of this group of patients. Statistical analysis of all 50 cases of de novo aneurysms discloses a more frequent history of smoking (P = 0.0007) and arterial hypertension (P = 0.0026) than in a control cohort. Patients with de novo aneurysms are younger (P < 0.0001); the proportion with multiple aneurysms was 28 %. Of de novo aneurysms 44 % became symptomatic 3-6 years after the first subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH), and the interval was significantly shorter in hypertensive patients. We suggest that young patients with a history of SAH and arterial hypertension and nicotine abuse should therefore be considered for conventional angiography after a 5-year interval. MRA might not be useful due to clip artefacts from even nonferromagnetic clips. Close control of blood pressure is essential in these patients.