Making the best recovery - our work on brain aneurysms

Every year in the UK about 10,000 people have a bleed in their brain when a swollen blood vessel bursts.

This needs urgent life-saving treatment to stop the vessel bleeding again. The swelling is known as an aneurysm.

At Southampton our neurosciences team treat these bleeds and we are proud of the care we give.

The bleeds are known as subarachnoid haemorrhage where, when the vessel bursts, blood leaks onto the surface of the brain. This happens suddenly and with no warning and usually a very bad headache starts quickly with it.

I have heard it described as like being hit on the head with a shovel. If it happens, a 999 call is needed and hospital treatment provided at a specialist centre within 24 hours.

There are two types of treatment – clipping, where one of our neurosurgeons will put a little metal clip on the blood vessel to seal it back up.

The other way is called coiling and is done by our interventional neuroradiologists. A platinum coil gets carefully guided into the brain’s blood vessel via a tiny cut made in an artery in the groin.

These days we tend to do coiling for most patients but an individual treatment plan is tailored for each patient.

As for all our other services we like to keep an eye on how well our patients do after we have clipped or coiled their blood vessel.

This is a very serious illness and, sadly, only around two out of three patients will survive. It depends mainly on how bad the bleed is.

The good news is, in Southampton, our results show that if a patient is still conscious and aware of their surroundings before treatment, they have a 90% chance of making a good or complete recovery.

Dr John Millar, consultant interventional neuroradiologist says: "We are very proud of the service we can offer patients with this condition. It relies on a highly trained and experienced team who have helped develop this type of treatment over the past 20 years. Our technology and understanding of the disease is improving all the time and we hope to see further advances in the future."

The whole team in the Wessex Neurosciences Centre play their part in the care provided including the follow up clinics and helpline service run by our specialist nurse Lesley Foulkes.

Smoking, excessive alcohol drinking and poorly controlled high blood pressure can increase the risk of these bleeds. So healthy lifestyle choices can make a difference.

You can read more about brain conditions on our website and NHS Choices also has information.