What to Expect

Rehabilitation and Recovery

The families of brain aneurysm survivors may need to make difficult decisions and deal with extremely challenging circumstances. Changes in behavior, mood and emotions are common after surgery. Some patients also may experience deficits in cognitive, or thinking, abilities. Such changes present challenges for caregivers trying to help the patient recover. The caregiver is crucial to successful rehabilitation, so learning everything about the aneurysm and its effects on behavior as well as physical function will help you respond effectively. It is important to remember that these changes are caused by the aneurysm itself, and not the patient. The rehabilitation of the ruptured aneurysm patient requires strong and loving support from the family, as well as a quality rehabilitation team of doctors and therapists to optimize the patient’s recovery from the devastation caused by a brain aneurysm.

Information sources

Your doctor, nurse practitioner or case manager are all excellent sources to help you explore various rehabilitation options. Websites and support groups dedicated to brain aneurysms also are useful. Perhaps the best sources are patients who have successfully undergone surgery and caregivers who have helped them resume their daily lives.

Paths to recovery

In the best-case scenario, patient and caregiver know about the aneurysm in advance and make decisions about rehabilitation before surgery. A planned surgery typically creates mild-to-moderate cognitive and physical issues. The recovery period for elective treatment in patients with an unruptured aneurysm us usually shorter and less complex than that for an emergency treatment in patients with a ruptured aneurysm.

A more serious situation occurs when an aneurysm unexpectedly ruptures and leads to emergency surgery. The physical and psychological effects from unplanned emergency surgery can be more serious because the aneurysm has already ruptured and caused damage to brain tissue. Moderate-to-severe cognitive and physical limitations may result. Fatigue and weakness can persist for a few months after hospitalization. New physical impairments after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) include wound related discomfort, problems with balance and coordination, weakness in one or more limbs, difficulty with speech and swallowing and problems with vision. Over time these deficits may improve partially or entirely. Physically, healing may take months to a few years.