Screening for Intracranial Aneurysms in Individuals with a Positive First-Degree Family History: A Systematic Review

World Neurosurg. 2021 Jul:151:235-248.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2021.02.112. Epub 2021 Mar 5.


Background: Subarachnoid hemorrhage secondary to rupture of an intracranial aneurysm (IA) is a devastating condition with high morbidity and mortality. Individuals with a positive family history of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH) or IA can have an increased risk for aSAH or IA themselves. Screening is currently recommended in families with ≥2 affected first-degree relatives. We sought to assess the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of IA screening in individuals with a positive first-degree family history, relative to the number of family members affected.

Methods: We performed a systematic literature search using PubMed and Google Scholar and identified additional studies by reviewing reference lists. Only original studies and review papers were considered. We excluded genetic diseases associated with IA and studies with unclear data concerning the number of first-versus second-degree relatives affected.

Results: This review included 37 articles. Individuals with ≥2 affected first-degree relatives had a greater prevalence of IA (average 13.1% vs. 3% in the general population). Similarly, we found a greater prevalence of IA in individuals with ≥1 affected first-degree relative (average 4.8%, up to 19% in individuals with additional risk factors). The risk of aSAH also was increased in both categories. Recent studies stressed the importance of serial screening over time and suggested that such screening can be cost-effective in persons with only one first-degree relative with IA or aSAH.

Conclusions: While current guidelines do not recommend screening individuals with ≥1 first-degree relative affected, we found strong arguments in favor of this approach.

Keywords: Aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage; Cost-effectiveness; Familial intracranial aneurysm; First-degree relatives; Psychological effects; Rupture risk; Screening; Serial screening.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Family
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / epidemiology*
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / surgery*
  • Mass Screening
  • Risk Factors
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / surgery*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires