Background: Asymptomatic cerebral aneurysms are diagnosed more frequently since the advent of computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Their management is currently empirical. We have used decision analysis to place it on a more analytical basis.
Methods: Decision analysis was used to determine the benefit in years of survival free of sequelae resulting from elective surgery of unruptured aneurysms over natural history. We took 2% as the annual rate of rupture (r), 73% as the risk of death or disability with rupture (M), and 6.5% for the average risk of elective surgery (S). Benefit was calculated from the equation L([1-(1-r)L]M/2-S)  for life expectancy (L) corresponding to each quinquennial age group from age 15 to 100 years. Sensitivity analysis was performed to take into account increasing risk of elective surgery based on the size, and accessibility of the aneurysm, and variable risks of rupture and outcome.
Results: A gain of at least one year of survival free of neurological sequelae is achieved by surgery compared to natural history for patients whose life expectancy is 19.5 years, corresponding to age 63.5 years for males and 68 years for females. The life expectancy at which a benefit accrues is longer (the patient is younger) for larger, less accessible aneurysms, for lower rates of rupture, and for lesser risks of death or disability from rupture.
Conclusions: Elective surgery of unruptured asymptomatic aneurysms achieves an increased survival over the natural history of at least one year free of neurological sequelae in patients whose life expectancy is 19.5 years or more, using our baseline assumptions. Using equation , the corresponding life expectancy producing this benefit can be calculated to account for the increased surgical risk of large, poorly accessible aneurysms and for factors affecting natural history.