For people who survive a brain aneurysm, damage from intracranial pressure and bleeding may pose long-term health effects.

Brain aneurysms, also known as “cerebral aneurysms” or “intracranial aneurysms,” don’t always cause symptoms. You can live with an aneurysm for years and not realize it, especially if it’s small, intact, and unchanging.

Larger aneurysms and aneurysms that leak or rupture can create a number of symptoms and signs, from headaches and facial paralysis to seizures and cardiac arrest.

A bleeding brain aneurysm has a 40% chance of being fatal, according to the American Stroke Association, and there’s a 66% chance that surviving a bleeding aneurysm may result in some level of brain damage.

A brain aneurysm occurs when an artery in the brain develops a bulge because of weak or thin spots in the vessel wall.

This bulge fills with blood, balloons out, and puts pressure on surrounding brain tissue and nerves. Some aneurysms never grow large enough to produce symptoms. When aneurysms grow too large, they may leak blood or rupture.

Several types of brain aneurysms exist, identified by their size, shape, and location. These types include:

  • mycotic
  • saccular
  • fusiform

The potential long-term effects of a brain aneurysm may be mental and physical, and they can depend on what parts of your brain are affected.

According to a 2016 study, common long-term effects after a brain aneurysm include:

Ruptured brain aneurysm complications

There’s no way to predict how a ruptured brain aneurysm will affect you or how long the complications will last.

Possible experiences after surviving a rupture include:

  • chronic headaches
  • physical and mental fatigue
  • loss of coordination
  • affected balance
  • speech difficulties
  • impaired short-term memory
  • perception changes
  • inability to concentrate
  • weakness in the extremities
  • limited emotional regulation
  • mood disorders
  • personality and behavioral changes

For some people, these challenges may be short-term. In others, complications may cause significant impairment for long periods of time, sometimes for life.

Not everyone will notice personality changes after a brain aneurysm, but they’re possible due to a condition known as “frontal lobe syndrome.”

Frontal lobe syndrome is used to describe damage to the brain that affects the function of the prefrontal cortex, the area of your brain that regulates personality, emotions, and interpersonal interactions, among many other things.

If an aneurysm disrupts prefrontal cortex function, it may cause changes in personality and goal-oriented behavior.

According to a 2016 study, these changes may appear as:

  • reduced self-control and self-direction
  • emotional instability
  • apathy
  • irritability or excitability
  • lack of inhibition when expressing emotions
  • inappropriate behaviors
  • changes in sexual habits
  • anxiety
  • depression

Many of these symptoms improve with time.

It’s natural not to remember the events surrounding an aneurysm rupture. Most people find short-term memory is significantly affected.

The Brain Aneurysm Foundation indicates the that inability to recall information is the memory deficit that affects survivors the most.

You may also experience deficits in what’s called “prospective memory,” which is the ability to recall things that are supposed to happen in the future such as appointments or meetings.

A 2019 study, which looks into the memory deficits among people who have had brain aneurysm surgery, notes that short- and long-term memory deficits are noted 11 months after surgical treatment. The study also notes that after 48 months, many of these deficits improve.

Treatment of a brain aneurysm depends on its size, location, and risk of rupture, as well as your overall health.

Small aneurysms with low rupture risk may not require treatment. A doctor may decide to regularly check an aneurysm with diagnostic imaging rather than initiate a major procedure.

Certain lifestyle adjustments are often necessary. Smoking cessation, elimination of recreational drugs, and blood pressure control can reduce the risks of an aneurysm rupture.

If surgery is necessary, doctors choose between several procedures:

  • Microvascular clipping: open brain surgery to place a metal clip that seals off blood supply to the aneurysm
  • Platinum coil embolization: the placement of platinum wire coils via arterial catheterization into an aneurysm to block blood flow
  • Flow diversion devices: arterial catheterization method uses a flexible tube of mesh to reduce an aneurysm’s blood flow when other surgical procedures aren’t possible
  • Shunt: creation of a port that moves cerebrospinal fluid buildup and reduces pressure on the brain

Brain aneurysm recovery looks different for everyone. If you survived a rupture, there’s a greater chance your recovery will be more complex compared with people who had an intact aneurysm removed.

In general, recovery times from microvascular clipping may take up to 6 weeks, following a several-day hospital stay after the procedure.

Less invasive procedures such as platinum coil embolization may only require 1–2 days in the hospital, followed by a 7-day recovery.

Postsurgery side effects and risks may include:

  • incision pain
  • jaw pain
  • hearing loss
  • a “clicking” sound in your head
  • seizures
  • groin pain from catheterization
  • hair loss
  • fatigue
  • sensory changes
  • constipation
  • vision changes
  • lower back pain
  • delayed reaction time

Recommendations are made by a doctor for rehabilitation services based on your current condition. Some people can recover easily at home, while others need services to regain language skills or physical function.

Can you have a good quality of life after a brain aneurysm?

Your quality of life after a brain aneurysm depends on its lasting effects. A good quality of life is possible, especially if an aneurysm was treated before a rupture.

According to a 2022 study, people living with unruptured brain aneurysms saw quality of life improvements directly after receiving counseling services and more gradually after having procedures to close off an aneurysm.

A brain aneurysm rupture is fatal for approximately 50% of people within 3 months of the event, with nearly one-quarter of people passing within the first 24 hours.

Surgery before a rupture can improve survival rates significantly.

Life expectancy after aneurysm surgery

There’s no way to know how brain aneurysm surgery will affect your life expectancy. You may recover fully, with little to no lasting effects, or you may experience significant functional challenges.

Older research from 2005 suggests repairing an aneurysm in people under the age of 20 years can save 2–40 years of life. The research also suggests that the benefit disappears as age increases.

Overall the postsurgery mortality rate, regardless of the procedure, is significantly lower for unruptured aneurysms, according to a 2021 review.

Life after a brain aneurysm depends on the aneurysm’s size, if it has ruptured, and how much damage it has caused to your brain.

You may experience short- and long-term side effects such as chronic headaches, memory loss, personality changes, and physical impairment.

In general, treatment of a brain aneurysm before a rupture is linked to better outcomes. Rehabilitation services to rebuild mobility, language skills, and overall function can help improve your quality of life after an aneurysm.