Diagnosis and Treatment of Unruptured Intracranial Aneurysms and Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Mayo Clin Proc. 2021 Jul;96(7):1970-2000. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2021.01.005. Epub 2021 May 13.


Unruptured intracranial aneurysms (UIAs) are commonly acquired vascular lesions that form an outpouching of the arterial wall due to wall thinning. The prevalence of UIAs in the general population is 3.2%. In contrast, an intracranial aneurysm may be manifested after rupture with classic presentation of a thunderclap headache suggesting aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Previous consensus suggests that although small intracranial aneurysms (<7 mm) are less susceptible to rupture, aneurysms larger than 7 mm should be treated on a case-by-case basis with consideration of additional risk factors of aneurysmal growth and rupture. However, this distinction is outdated. The PHASES score, which comprises data pooled from several prospective studies, provides precise estimates by considering not only the aneurysm size but also other variables, such as the aneurysm location. The International Study of Unruptured Intracranial Aneurysms is the largest observational study on the natural history of UIAs, providing the foundation to the current guidelines for the management of UIAs. Although SAH accounts for only 3% of all stroke subtypes, it is associated with considerable burden of morbidity and mortality. The initial management is focused on stabilizing the patient in the intensive care unit with close hemodynamic and serial neurologic monitoring with endovascular or open surgical aneurysm treatment to prevent rebleeding. Since the results of the International Subarachnoid Aneurysm Trial, treatment of aneurysmal SAH has shifted from surgical clipping to endovascular coiling, which demonstrated higher odds of survival free of disability at 1 year after SAH. Nonetheless, aneurysmal SAH remains a public health hazard and is associated with high rates of disability and death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aneurysm, Ruptured*
  • Endovascular Procedures* / methods
  • Endovascular Procedures* / trends
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Aneurysm* / complications
  • Intracranial Aneurysm* / diagnosis
  • Intracranial Aneurysm* / surgery
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage* / diagnosis
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage* / etiology
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage* / surgery