Many people carry cerebral aneurysms but are generally unaware of their presence until they rupture, resulting in high morbidity or mortality. The pathogenesis and aetiology of aneurysms are largely unknown; however, a greater understanding, by analysing the genetic, molecular and haemodynamic risk factors involved in the initiation, enlargement, and rupture of aneurysms, could lead to effective prevention, early diagnosis and more effective treatment. The risk of aneurysm is increased by a family history of aneurysms, and amongst certain populations, namely in Japan and Finland. Several other risk factors are documented, including hypertension, smoking, alcohol consumption, and female sex. Studies indicate a higher occurrence of cerebral aneurysms in females compared to males. Oestrogen protects several components within the artery wall, and inhibits some of the inflammatory molecules that could cause aneurysms. At menopause, the oestrogen level decreases and the incidence of aneurysm increases. Haemodynamic stresses have been shown to be involved in the formation, growth and rupture of aneurysms. This is often associated with hypertension, which also increases the risk of aneurysm rupture. When an unruptured aneurysm is detected the decision to treat can be complicated, since only 1-2% of aneurysms eventually rupture. Haemodynamic simulation software offers an effective tool for the consideration of treatment options for patients who carry unruptured aneurysms. The assessment must consider the risks of interventional treatments versus non-interventional management options, such as controlling blood pressure.
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