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Clinical relevance of short-term follow-up of unruptured intracranial aneurysms

Rob Molenberg, Marlien W. Aalbers, Jan D. M. Metzemaekers, Aryan Mazuri, Gert-Jan Luijckx, Rob J. M. Groen, Maarten Uyttenboogaart, and J. Marc C. van Dijk


Unruptured intracranial aneurysms are common incidental findings on brain imaging. Short-term follow-up for conservatively treated aneurysms is routinely performed in most cerebrovascular centers, although its clinical relevance remains unclear. In this study, the authors assessed the extent of growth as well as the rupture risk during short-term follow-up of conservatively treated unruptured intracranial aneurysms. In addition, the influence of patient-specific and aneurysm-specific factors on growth and rupture risk was investigated.


The authors queried their prospective institutional neurovascular registry to identify patients with unruptured intracranial aneurysms and short-term follow-up imaging, defined as follow-up MRA and/or CTA within 3 months to 2 years after initial diagnosis. Medical records and questionnaires were used to acquire baseline information. The authors measured aneurysm size at baseline and at follow-up to detect growth. Rupture was defined as a CT scan–proven and/or CSF-proven subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH).


A total of 206 consecutive patients with 267 conservatively managed unruptured aneurysms underwent short-term follow-up at the authors’ center. Seven aneurysms (2.6%) enlarged during a median follow-up duration of 1 year (range 0.3–2.0 years). One aneurysm (0.4%) ruptured 10 months after initial discovery. Statistically significant risk factors for growth or rupture were autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease (RR 8.3, 95% CI 2.0–34.7), aspect ratio > 1.6 or size ratio > 3 (RR 10.8, 95% CI 2.2–52.2), and initial size ≥ 7 mm (RR 10.7, 95% CI 2.7–42.8).


Significant growth of unruptured intracranial aneurysms may occur in a small proportion of patients during short-term follow-up. As aneurysm growth is associated with an increased risk of rupture, the authors advocate that short-term follow-up is clinically relevant and has an important role in reducing the risk of a potential SAH.