Game Changer: Minimally Invasive Cerebral Aneurysm Surgery



Dr. John Whapham
John Whapham, M.D., MS, FSNIS, FAAN

Surgery has always been an option for certain types of intracranial cerebral aneurysms, but in recent years, minimally invasive procedures have greatly reduced both physical trauma as well as recovery times.

Cerebral aneurysms occur when part of a blood vessel wall weakens, allowing it to bulge, widen and potentially burst or rupture, which can be life-threatening.

Aneurysms can exist for years without detection. Because of this, there are often no symptoms until an aneurysm ruptures. Once that happens, symptoms may develop suddenly and violently, depending on the location of the aneurysm.

Usually, symptoms come on quickly and are unlike anything you might have experienced before. If you don’t often get headaches but suddenly experience an intense migraine, a ruptured brain aneurysm could be the culprit.

Call 911 and seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know is having aneurysm signs and symptoms including:

  • Severe headache
  • worst headache of life
  • Stiffness or swelling in the neck
  • loss of consciousness
  • speech difficulty
  • focal motor or sensory symptoms weakness or numbness
  • Dizziness
  • Vision changes
  • Confusion
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shock (low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, clammy skin, decreased awareness)

Sometimes an unruptured aneurysm is found when performing unrelated diagnostic testing such as MRIs or CAT scans.

Minimally Invasive Aneurysm Surgery Saves Lives

Aneurysm treatment has greatly improved in the last 25 to 30 years. In the past, major surgery, such as open craniotomy, was commonplace. In this procedure, a small metal clip is placed across the base of the aneurysm bulge that seals off blood flow to the ballooned blood vessel.

However, modern advances have made this major procedure less common.

These days, minimally invasive procedures such as coiling and stenting are the norm. Both divert the flow of blood away from the aneurysm making it less likely to rupture and are performed without opening the skull.

  • Coiling, also called endovascular embolization, uses a catheter passed through the groin up into the artery containing the aneurysm where tiny platinum coils are released. The coils induce clotting of the aneurysm and that clotting prevents blood from entering the aneurysm.
  • Stenting is when a catheter is used to place a stent (a soft, flexible mesh tube) into the blood vessel where an aneurysm has formed. The stent prevents blood from entering the aneurysm. In time, new cells grow on the stent, sealing the aneurysm and healing the vessel.

These minimally invasive procedures allow for a much shorter recovery period, and it is possible to return to daily living as early as one day after hospital discharge.

In fact, some patients with an unruptured aneurysm check in at the hospital, undergo a procedure that is finished in a couple of hours, stay overnight for observation and are discharged the next morning with only a small bandage covering the spot in the groin or wrist where the needle access was made.

Quick Treatment Is Key

It’s crucial to contact first responders at the first sign of an intense, sudden headache since that may indicate a ruptured aneurysm.

If you are diagnosed with an unruptured aneurysm, call us right away to make an appointment.

Depending on the aneurysm’s size and location, you may require regular checkups from a physician trained in aneurysm treatment and surgery. A treatment plan, including lowering your blood pressure, quitting smoking and medical intervention, can help you reduce the risk of rupture.


If you or a loved one is seeking treatment for a condition of the brain, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Whapham or any of our MHSI experts, visit or call 248-784-3667.