Understanding the Devastating Effect of Delayed Brain Aneurysm Treatment

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Two doctors looking at a brain scan

A brain aneurysm occurs as a result of a weak blood vessel wall, leading to the blood vessel bulging like a balloon.  If these aneurysms rupture, this leads to a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH), which is a type of stroke.  A SAH can cause extensive damage to the brain and/or death.

The symptoms of an unruptured brain aneurysm, amongst others, are a pain above or around the eye, headaches and visual disturbances.  Many people can have brain aneurysms without knowing as they are small and never rupture.

Who Might get a brain aneurysm?

Brain aneurysms are more common in people over 40 and are more common in women than men.  However, due to many brain aneurysms remaining undetected, the statistics regarding how many people are affected are uncertain.

When the aneurysm bursts and becomes a subarachnoid haemorrhage, the symptoms can be a sudden agonising headache (the typical “thunderclap headache” akin to being hit on the head), a stiff neck, vomiting and pain on looking at light.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of an unruptured brain aneurysm, or a low-grade subarachnoid haemorrhage, are very similar to those encountered during a migraine. This means that misdiagnosis of unruptured brain aneurysms is common.

However, if an unruptured brain aneurysm is found, there is treatment available to prevent it from rupturing in the future.  This usually involves coiling the aneurysm (filling the aneurysm with tiny metal coils) or surgical clipping (sealing the aneurysm shut).  These methods can also be used to treat a subarachnoid haemorrhage (a ruptured aneurysm) if it is caught early enough.

George’s story – late diagnosis of an aneurysm

The details of the following case study have been amended to protect the Claimant’s identity.

George was an active 59 year old man – a husband, father and grandfather.  He loved travelling, classic cars and was a handyman.

One day in 2017, George experienced a sudden pain in his head, screamed out in pain and collapsed.  His wife, Laura, phoned the ambulance and he was taken to his local hospital.  At that stage, George was able to communicate and could walk, but was complaining of a bad headache.  The headache eased slightly from the initial pain he had but he still had a headache that wouldn’t go away.

George had a CT scan but this was reported as normal.  George was kept in hospital overnight and discharged home the following day with a diagnosis of migraine.  No further tests were carried out.

George tried to carry on with daily life.  He continued to have headaches and saw his GP about them but no further action was taken.

George’s aneurysm should have been identified and treated sooner

Two and a half weeks after his initial collapse, George started to experience a very bad headache again and tried to sleep it off.  The following morning, Laura and her daughter found George collapsed at home.  Laura carried out CPR and an ambulance was called.

George was again taken to his local hospital and had a further CT scan.  This time it was recorded that George had had a Grade 5 subarachnoid haemorrhage – the most severe haemorrhage that can occur.

When the doctors looked back at George’s previous CT scan, they saw a smaller subarachnoid haemorrhage that had been present when he first attended hospital.  This had been missed when the first CT scan was reviewed and, as a result, George had a re-bleed which catastrophically changed his life forever.

Had George been diagnosed correctly after his first small subarachnoid haemorrhage, he would have had coiling treatment and he would have made a full recovery.  Instead, because the haemorrhage was left without being treated, the re-bleed was of the utmost severity.

George now has a severe brain injury, and will require 24/7 care for the rest of his life.  He has very poor short-term memory, cannot walk and is doubly incontinent. As a result, he will never work again.

Through the legal claim, we have been able to obtain compensation for George to allow him to live in an adapted property with his family and a full care team and to have all the therapies to enable him to meet his full potential and to regain as much independence as he can.

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