Growth and rupture of unruptured intracranial aneurysms

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Risk factors for growth of unruptured intracranial aneurysms (UIAs) during a lifelong follow-up in relation to subsequent rupture are unknown. The author’s aim in this study was to investigate whether risk factors for UIA growth are different for those that lead to rupture than for those that do not.


The series consists of 87 patients with 111 UIAs diagnosed before 1979, when UIAs were not treated. A total follow-up time of the patients was 2648 person-years for all-cause death and 2182 years when patients were monitored until the first rupture, death due to unrelated causes, or the last contact (annual incidence of aneurysm rupture, 1.2%). The follow-up time between aneurysm measurements was 1669 person-years. Risk factors for UIA growth were analyzed in relation to subsequent rupture.


The median follow-up time between aneurysm measurements was 21.7 years (range 1.2–51.0 years). In 40 of the 87 patients (46%), the UIAs increased in size ≥ 1 mm, and in 31 patients (36%) ≥ 3 mm. All ruptured aneurysms in 27 patients grew during the follow-up of 324 person-years (mean growth rates 6.1 mm, 0.92 mm/year, and 37%/year), while growth without rupture occurred in 13 patients during 302 follow-up years (3.9 mm, 0.18 mm/year, and 4%/year) and no growth occurred in 47 patients during 1043 follow-up years. None of the 60 patients without aneurysm rupture experienced one during the subsequent 639 follow-up years after the last aneurysm measurement. Independent risk factors for UIA growth (≥ 1 mm) in all patients were female sex (adjusted OR 3.08, 95% CI 1.04–9.13) and smoking throughout the follow-up time (adjusted OR 3.16, 95% CI 1.10–9.10), while only smoking (adjusted OR 4.36, 95% CI 1.27–14.99) was associated with growth resulting in aneurysm rupture. Smoking was the only independent risk factor for UIA growth ≥ 3 mm resulting in aneurysm rupture (adjusted OR 4.03, 95% CI 1.08–15.07). Cigarette smoking at baseline predicted subsequent UIA growth, while smoking at the end of the follow-up was associated with growth resulting in aneurysm rupture.


Cigarette smoking is an important risk factor for UIA growth, particularly for growth resulting in rupture. Cessation of smoking may reduce the risk of devastating aneurysm growth.

ABBREVIATIONS SAH = subarachnoid hemorrhage; UIA = unruptured intracranial aneurysm.

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Article Information

Correspondence Seppo Juvela: University of Helsinki, Finland.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online September 14, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2018.4.JNS18687.

Disclosures The author reports no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.





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