Legendary rapper Dr. Dre was hospitalized on Tuesday after reportedly suffering a brain aneurysm, which can quickly turn deadly should it rupture.
The music icon later took to Instagram, thanking fans for their kinds words, saying he’s “doing great and getting excellent care” from his medical team at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
Following the news, some may be wondering: What is a brain aneurysm?
Read on for a breakdown of the potentially life-threatening occurrence.
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First, what is a brain aneurysm?
Simply put, a brain aneurysm is a “weak or thin spot on an artery in the brain that balloons or bulges out and fills with blood,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
A brain aneurysm “looks like a berry hanging on a stem,” describes the Mayo Clinic.
Much of the time, a brain aneurysm causes no symptoms — it’s only after it steadily grows, becoming larger and larger, that some people experience symptoms such as pain above and behind the eye, paralysis on one side of the face, numbness and weakness, among other signs.
When the aneurysm ruptures, however, “one always experiences a sudden and extremely severe headache” says the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which notes that this severe headache is commonly described as the “worst headache of one’s life.”
Double vision, nausea, vomiting, seizures, loss of consciousness, and beyond can ensue after the aneurysm bursts.
There are three types of brain aneurysms: a saccular aneurysm, a fusiform aneurysm and a mycotic aneurysm. Aneurysms are also classified by size, per the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: small, large and giant.
What causes a brain aneurysm?
Overall, the causes of brain aneurysms are unknown, per the Mayo Clinic.
In some cases, however, one can be born with a brain aneurysm, “usually resulting from an abnormality in an artery wall,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Inherited factors can also put some people more at risk for brain aneurysms, such as if they suffer from genetic connective tissue disorders, have a history of aneurysms in a primary family member, such as a parent or sibling, or suffer from polycystic kidney disease, among other risk factors.
That said, untreated high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, the use of certain drugs (namely cocaine), and heavy drinking of alcohol, among other risk factors, can also lead to a brain aneurysm in some cases.
What are the complications of a ruptured brain aneurysm and how is it treated?
There are several complications should a brain aneurysm rupture.
“When a brain aneurysm ruptures, the bleeding usually lasts only a few seconds. The blood can cause direct damage to surrounding cells, and the bleeding can damage or kill other cells. It also increases pressure inside the skull,” says the Mayo Clinic. “If the pressure becomes too elevated, the blood and oxygen supply to the brain may be disrupted to the point that loss of consciousness or even death may occur.”
Complications that can follow after a rupture include the risk of re-bleeding, vasospasm — when the blood vessels in the brain “narrow erratically,” which can cause strokes— and hyponatremia (when the balance of sodium in the blood is disputed, and seizures), among other potential complications.
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“Surgery, endovascular treatments, or other therapies are often recommended to manage symptoms and prevent damage from unruptured and ruptured aneurysms,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
“About 25 percent of individuals whose cerebral aneurysm has ruptured do not survive the first 24 hours; another 25 percent die from complications within 6 months. People who experience subarachnoid hemorrhage may have permanent neurological damage. Other individuals recover with little or no disability,” adds the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which notes that “diagnosing and treating a cerebral aneurysm as soon as possible will help increase the chances of making a full recovery.”