During the microsurgical clipping of known aneurysms, angiographically occult (AO) aneurysms are sometimes found and treated simultaneously to prevent their growth and protect the patient from future rupture or reoperation. The authors analyzed the incidence, treatment, and outcomes associated with AO aneurysms to determine whether limited surgical exploration around the known aneurysm was safe and justified given the known limitations of diagnostic angiography.
An AO aneurysm was defined as a saccular aneurysm detected using the operative microscope during dissection of a known aneurysm, and not detected on preoperative catheter angiography. A prospective database was retrospectively reviewed to identify patients with AO aneurysms treated microsurgically over a 20-year period.
One hundred fifteen AO aneurysms (4.0%) were identified during 2867 distinct craniotomies for aneurysm clipping. The most common locations for AO aneurysms were the middle cerebral artery (60 aneurysms, 54.1%) and the anterior cerebral artery (20 aneurysms, 18.0%). Fifty-six AO aneurysms (50.5%) were located on the same artery as the known saccular aneurysm. Most AO aneurysms (95.5%) were clipped and there was no attributed morbidity. The most common causes of failed angiographic detection were superimposition of a large aneurysm (type 1, 30.6%), a small aneurysm (type 2, 18.9%), or an adjacent normal artery (type 3, 36.9%). Multivariate analysis identified multiple known aneurysms (odds ratio [OR] 3.45, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.16–5.49, p < 0.0001) and young age (OR 0.981, 95% CI 0.965–0.997, p = 0.0226) as independent predictors of AO aneurysms.
Meticulous inspection of common aneurysm sites within the surgical field will identify AO aneurysms during microsurgical dissection of another known aneurysm. Simultaneous identification and treatment of these additional undiagnosed aneurysms can spare patients later rupture or reoperation, particularly in those with multiple known aneurysms and a history of subarachnoid hemorrhage. Limited microsurgical exploration around a known aneurysm can be performed safely without additional morbidity.