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Surgical Clipping of Aneurysms

Surgical clipping may be performed to treat a brain aneurysm by isolating it from normal blood circulation.

Surgical clipping may be a treatment option for an aneurysm, which is a bulge that forms in a weakened area of an artery wall that can potentially rupture. By sealing off the aneurysm and preventing blood from entering it, the condition—as well as the associated risk of a brain bleed—can be eliminated.

How Does an Aneurysm Form?

Artery walls are under constant pressure from the blood that continually flows through the open channels within them. This pressure can cause a weakened area of an artery wall to bulge outward and form an aneurysm. Although an aneurysm may not cause noticeable symptoms, it can potentially burst. A ruptured aneurysm is a medical emergency that can cause internal bleeding and lead to a hemorrhagic stroke. A key symptom is a sudden, severe headache.

What Does Surgical Clipping Involve?

After stabilizing the patient’s head, the surgeon will make an incision and a small opening in the skull to access the brain. Next, the surgeon will open the protective covering around the brain (dura) and expose the aneurysm. While viewing the aneurysm under a microscope, the surgeon will carefully separate it from the surrounding healthy blood vessels and the brain, then clip its neck (at the base of the bulge) with a tiny, clothespin-like device. Once this permanent clamp is in place, the aneurysm will be completely sealed off. Because blood can no longer enter it, it cannot burst or spill blood into the brain. After securing the bone piece in place, the surgeon completes the procedure by closing the incision.

What to Expect After Surgical Clipping

The length of the recovery period following surgical clipping can vary based on whether the aneurysm had ruptured before the procedure. A patient with an intact aneurysm may be hospitalized for a few days, while a patient with a ruptured aneurysm may be hospitalized for a few weeks so that he or she can be monitored for side effects of the brain bleed. In either scenario, any post-operative pain can usually be managed with medication. A patient with a ruptured aneurysm may also participate in a rehabilitative physical therapy program if brain tissue was damaged by the hemorrhage.

Brain aneurysms are complex and highly nuanced, and there are several potentially effective treatment options. The heart and vascular specialists at Tampa General Hospital utilize state-of-the-art techniques and technologies to provide our patients with individualized aneurysm treatment, including surgical clipping. Additionally, as a state-licensed comprehensive stroke center, TGH has one of the largest neuroscience intensive care units in the nation. Our experienced team offers rapid diagnoses, specialized treatments and comprehensive rehabilitation services for our stroke patients.