Unruptured intracranial aneurysms: a review

J Neurosurg. 2002 Jan;96(1):3-42. doi: 10.3171/jns.2002.96.1.0003.


Object: In this article, pathological, radiological, and clinical information regarding unruptured intracranial aneurysms is reviewed.

Methods: Treatment decisions require that surgeons and interventionists take into account information obtained in pathological, radiological, and clinical studies of unruptured aneurysms. The author has performed a detailed review of the literature and has compared, contrasted, and summarized his findings. Unruptured aneurysms may be classified as truly incidental, part of a multiple aneurysm constellation, or symptomatic by virtue of their mass, irritative, or embolic effects. Unruptured aneurysms with clinical pathological profiles resembling those of ruptured lesions should be considered for treatment at a smaller size than unruptured lesions with profiles typical of intact aneurysms, as has been determined at autopsy in patients who have died of other causes. The track record of the surgeon or interventionist and the institution in which treatment is to be performed should be considered while debating treatment options. In cases in which treatment is not performed immediately, ongoing periodic radiological assessment may be wise. Radiological investigations to detect unruptured aneurysms in asymptomatic patients should be restricted to high-prevalence groups such as adults with a strong family history of aneurysms or patients with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease. All patients with intact lesions should be strongly advised to discontinue cigarette smoking if they are addicted.

Conclusions: The current state of knowledge about unruptured aneurysms does not support the use of the largest diameter of the lesion as the sole criterion on which to base treatment decisions, although it is of undoubted importance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aneurysm, Ruptured / diagnosis
  • Aneurysm, Ruptured / mortality
  • Aneurysm, Ruptured / surgery
  • Cerebral Angiography
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / diagnosis
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / mortality
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / surgery*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology