Patient Resources : Recovery

Physical Challenge

Recovery for patients who receive treatment for an unruptured aneurysm generally require less rehabilitative therapy and recover more quickly than patients whose aneurysm has ruptured. Recovery from treatment or rupture may take weeks to months.

During the recovery process, whether at the beginning or two years from your last surgery, you might experience some unusual physical challenges. It is comforting to know that you are not alone and that many brain aneurysm survivors are facing similar experiences. Most of these challenges will fade into the background as time goes by, while others will remain constant for many years, depending on your particular situation. Patience and time are your two best allies to the success of your recovery.

Recovery from a ruptured brain aneurysm is influenced by many factors. The most important factor is the patient’s clinical condition on admission based on the extent of the initial hemorrhage. Some patients are devastated neurologically from the time of rupture. Others do surprisingly well.

Headaches
Most patients experience different levels of headaches depending on the severity of the aneurysm, whether it ruptured, as well as the type of treatment. Many times, patients who have a hemorrhage will develop a secondary migraine condition as a result of the injury. Headaches can last for two weeks or two years, depending on these variables, as well as change of seasons, health, and stress.

Headaches can bring about fear and concern. You might worry that you have another aneurysm or wonder if you could have another hemorrhage. Your chances of rerupture are low, almost zero. However, there are rare instances when new aneurysms may grow or rupture. If you have the second "worst headache of your life," seek medical attention.

Drowsiness and Fatigue

Exhaustion is a very common complaint from brain aneurysm survivors. This can last for months, even years. The brain takes a very long time to heal, and the energy required for the healing process to take place is great. Also, some of the medications you might be taking could be causing you to feel sluggish and require frequent napping. Napping is good and is helping your body heal. Listen to your body, and rest as needed.

Incision Pain

This pain is usually localized to the surgical site. It may take several weeks to heal, and in some cases, absence of touch sensation may not fully return. It may be uncomfortable to sleep on the side that has the incision. However, it is okay to do this without doing any damage.

Balance and Coordination

After SAH there may be problems with balance and coordination.

Jaw Pain and Speech Impairment

Most common on the operative side of the face, and occurs when you try to open your mouth to eat or brush your teeth. To speed up the healing process, exercise your jaw by opening and closing your mouth (about ten times) as wide as you can at least four to five times per day. Notify your doctor, if the jaw pain persists for more than six weeks.

After rupture, and depending on location of SAH, a patient may experience difficulty with speech and swallowing.

Clicking Noise (Head)

You might hear a clicking noise, almost sounding like metal rubbing together. This is common when you position your head in different ways and can be alarming. There is no need to panic. It is actually the bone healing and will take a long time to stop.



Back Pain


Because you may have been confined to bed for a long period of time, you may have lost muscle mass, coordination, and balance. Some patients experience sciatica, a shooting pain down the back of your leg, as a result of this lack of activity, and will require physical therapy. Stretching exercises or a heating pad will help alleviate this pain.



Hair Loss

Some medications, the dye from the angiogram, as well as stress, may cause initial hair loss. Do not be alarmed, it will grow back.

Constipation

This may be an issue due to lack of mobility and addition of pain medication. You may need to take a soft laxative, such as Metamucil, or a stool softener, like Colace. Do not strain or push too hard!



Hearing Loss


Fluid might have accumulated in your ears and takes several weeks to disappear, making hearing on the side of the surgery diminished. This will improve in time, generally over a period of weeks.



Vision Problems

Depending on aneurysm location, you may experience blurred, double, or peripheral vision problems. Consult with your physician.



Decreased Fine Motor Control

Will return in most cases.



Delayed Menstruation

Is common. Talk to your gynecologist.



Weight Gain or Weight Loss

May be medication-related or due to lack of activity



Seizures

A seizure is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures may consist of strange sensations,blackouts, jerking in the arms and legs, lapses of consciousness, or a combination of these symptoms.

If you had a hemorrhage from your aneurysm, you will most likely be on seizure medication for a short time. It is important for you to monitor yourself for seizure activity, although your chances of having one are minimal, due to taking an anticonvulsant. Most unruptured aneurysm patients do not take seizure medication unless specified by their neurosurgeon.



After treatment, most patients will spend a couple days in the Intensive Care Unit. He/she will be closely monitored for pressure on the brain, any new bleeding, threat of vasospasm, as well as making sure all other body functions are working properly.


If you are on an anticonvulsant, you will probably remain on this medication for several weeks to months, or until the risk of further seizures is gone. You or a family member should make sure you take the medication on a regular basis. Depending on the medication, your doctor will draw blood frequently to determine appropriate drug levels for this medication.



If you are experiencing postoperative seizures, you must surrender your driver’s license to the Registry (Department) of Motor Vehicles. You or your doctor will contact the RMV/DMV after the seizures are gone.



Do not drink alcohol while taking this medication. Alcohol lowers your threshold for seizure activity, and may cause further complications.