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Anterior Communicating Artery Aneurysms

Pathology || Signs and Symptoms || Diagnosis || Treatment || Overview
Related Articles || References and Resources || Comment

Pathology

In order to understand the anterior communicating artery, we have to first appreciate the anatomy of the anterior cerebral arteries. The anterior cerebral arteries are one of the two terminal branches of each internal carotid artery (the other being the middle cerebral artery). Each anterior cerebral artery has two sections: an A1 segment and an A2 segment.

Each A1 segment branches into an A2 segment and the anterior communicating artery. The anterior communicating artery connects each anterior cerebral arteries' A1 segment together to form a circle (see schematic below).

The anterior communicating artery is one of the most common sites for intracranial aneurysm formation. Patients at risk for developing aneurysms include those with atherosclerosis, those with a family history of intracranial aneurysms, those with a history of hypertension or collagen vascular disease, and those with polycystic kidney disease. Smokers are also at a higher risk of developing aneurysms.

Basilar Tip Schematic Drawing

Anterior communicating artery aneurysms form when the lining of the vessel wall is thinned and the muscular layer of the blood vessel (tunica media) becomes weakened.

This thinning allows turbulent blood flow to form out-pouchings in the vessel wall. Typically these outpouchings occur at points where blood vessels branch.

Signs and Symptoms

Anterior communicating artery aneurysms commonly present after a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which can cause a variety of signs and symptoms. The most common being a severe headache, although cranial nerve dysfunction, stroke, coma, and death can also occur.

Less commonly, aneurysms in this location can compress the optic chiasm or optic nerves leading to problems with vision.

Diagnosis

Anterior cerebral artery aneurysms are most commonly diagnosed after a subarachnoid hemorrhage when a patient presents with the "worst headache of their life". The best imaging methods for diagnosing these aneurysms are CT angiograms (see image below), MR angiograms, and formal cerebral angiograms.

Treatment

Like other intracranial aneurysms, anterior communicating artery aneurysms may be clipped or coiled. Clipping of an aneurysm involves an open surgical procedure where the surgeon dissects down to the aneurysm and places a clip across its neck. This excludes it from the circulation and prevents it from rupturing.

Anterior Communicating Artery Aneurysm CT Angiogram
Aneurysms may also be treated from inside the blood vessel. In this procedure a catheter is threaded from the femoral artery in the groin up towards the location of the aneurysm. Small metallic coils are placed within the dome of the aneurysm, which also excludes it from the normal circulation.

Regardless of how the aneurysm is treated - either with clipping or coiling - the end result is that the aneurysm is excluded from the normal circulation. This prevents it from rupturing.

The merits of clipping versus coiling are still under debate. Ultimately, the treatment depends on the size and location of the aneurysm, as well as other medical problems that the patient may have.

Overview

Anterior communicating artery aneurysms are the most common intracranial aneurysm. They typically present after rupturing into the subarachnoid space and/or adjacent frontal lobes. They are diagnosed using CT angiograms or formal cerebral angiography. Treatment is with clipping and/or coiling.

References and Resources

(1) Bederson JB, Awad IA, Wiebers DO, et al. Recommendations for the management of patients with unruptured intracranial aneurysms. Stroke 2000;31:2742-2750.

(2) Hunt WE, Hess RM. Surgical Risk as Related to Time of Intervention in the Repair of Intracranial Aneurysms. Journal of Neurosurgery 1968; 28:14-20.

(3) Brisman JL, Song JK, Newell DW. Cerebral Aneurysms. NEJM 2006; 355:928-939.

(4) Kumar V, Abbas AK, Fausto N. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. Seventh Edition. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders, 2004.

(5) Frontera JA. Decision Making in Neurocritical Care. First Edition. New York: Thieme, 2009.

(6) Greenberg MS. Handbook of Neurosurgery. Sixth Edition. New York: Thieme, 2006. Chapter 25.

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Comments

Ooh Rah commented: I had one which was clipped at the U of M Hospital in 1995. My life was saved and I'm a very happy man. My daughter was four and said that I had a brain leak. For about six months I had short term memory loss. God bless you all! Ooh Rah