Your patient is a 23-year-old female with a history of headaches. This morning she was experiencing a really bad headache as her boyfriend was driving her to the university. He thought she was sleeping and by the time they got to the school, 45 minutes later, she was not waking up. She was diagnosed with a cerebral aneurysm and you are taking care of her in the Neurological ICU.


Cerebral aneurysms are a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by the abnormal dilation of blood vessels in the brain. When a cerebral aneurysm ruptures, it can result in a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), leading to severe morbidity and mortality. Prompt recognition and management of cerebral aneurysms are critical in order to improve patient outcomes. This case study focuses on a 23-year-old female patient with a history of headaches who presented to the Neurological ICU with a cerebral aneurysm. The aim of this assignment is to evaluate the diagnostic and therapeutic approach to cerebral aneurysms, as well as the implications for nursing care in the Neurological ICU.


Cerebral aneurysms occur due to the weakening of the arterial wall in the cerebral circulation, resulting in a localized outpouching or bulge. These aneurysms most commonly occur at arterial bifurcations and are often associated with congenital defects in the medial layer of the arterial wall. The exact etiology and causative factors for the development of cerebral aneurysms are not fully understood; however, various risk factors have been identified, such as smoking, hypertension, and certain genetic disorders.

When a cerebral aneurysm ruptures, it leads to extravasation of blood into the subarachnoid space, causing a subarachnoid hemorrhage. This results in an acute increase in intracranial pressure, leading to a series of pathophysiological events. The blood irritates the meninges and cerebral vasculature, which can cause vasospasm and subsequent cerebral ischemia. Additionally, the presence of blood within the subarachnoid space can impair the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, leading to hydrocephalus. These processes contribute to the significant morbidity and mortality associated with cerebral aneurysm rupture.

Diagnosis and Evaluation

The diagnosis of a cerebral aneurysm is typically made using imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or cerebral angiography. CT scanning is the initial modality of choice for patients presenting with acute neurological symptoms, as it can quickly identify the presence of hemorrhage. Once the presence of a subarachnoid hemorrhage is confirmed, further imaging is necessary to identify the aneurysm and plan for intervention.

Cerebral angiography is considered the gold standard for the diagnosis and evaluation of cerebral aneurysms. It involves the injection of contrast material into the arterial system, allowing for visualization of the cerebral vasculature and identification of the aneurysm. This modality provides precise anatomical information, allowing for accurate planning of surgical or endovascular intervention.

In addition to imaging studies, lumbar puncture may be performed in selected cases to analyze the cerebrospinal fluid for the presence of red blood cells and xanthochromia. Xanthochromia, the yellow discoloration of cerebrospinal fluid due to the breakdown of red blood cells, is an indicator of subarachnoid hemorrhage. It can help confirm the diagnosis in cases where initial imaging studies are inconclusive.

Treatment and Nursing Implications

The management of cerebral aneurysms can involve both surgical and endovascular approaches. Surgical options include clipping, in which a small metal clip is placed at the base of the aneurysm to stop blood flow, and coil embolization, in which platinum coils are inserted into the aneurysm to promote thrombosis and prevent rupture. Endovascular techniques, such as balloon-assisted coiling and stent-assisted coiling, can also be utilized to treat cerebral aneurysms.

In the Neurological ICU, nursing care plays a crucial role in the management of patients with cerebral aneurysms. Close monitoring of vital signs, neurological status, and intracranial pressure is essential. Maintaining a patent airway and ensuring adequate oxygenation are paramount to prevent further cerebral ischemia. Head of bed elevation, sedation, and pain management are important aspects of nursing care to reduce intracranial pressure and alleviate discomfort.


Cerebral aneurysms are a serious condition that requires prompt recognition, diagnosis, and management. Imaging studies, such as CT scanning and cerebral angiography, are instrumental in identifying the presence and location of an aneurysm. Treatment options include surgical clipping and endovascular coiling, both of which have shown efficacy in preventing aneurysm rupture. In the Neurological ICU, nursing care focuses on close monitoring of vital signs, neurological status, and managing intracranial pressure. The comprehensive management of patients with cerebral aneurysms requires a multidisciplinary approach, involving neurosurgeons, interventional radiologists, and critical care nurses.

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