Through imaging screening techniques, individuals at high risk of harboring a brain aneurysm can be identified easily with non-invasive imaging tests. Some risk factors for developing brain aneurysms include cigarette use, chronic hypertension and history of cerebral aneurysms in closely related family members. An aneurysm is often diagnosed using a variety of imaging equipment. Some methods include CT Scan, CTA, MRI and MRA.


When a ruptured aneurysm is suspected, a head CT scan is performed to detect brain bleeding, using non-invasive X-ray technology. However, this scan typically does not reveal the aneurysm’s cause.

To pinpoint aneurysms, doctors may employ computerized tomography angiography (CTA), injecting contrast dye to highlight brain blood vessels for specialized imaging. Alternatively, an angiogram may be necessary for clearer views, involving a catheter inserted into the groin artery to inject contrast dye and capture X-ray images.

For aneurysm screening, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) are preferred, using radio waves and a magnetic field without exposing patients to X-rays.

CTA, MRA, or angiograms are also employed for diagnosing unruptured aneurysms.

Screening: Familial Aneurysms

Brain aneurysms are typically not hereditary, often occurring as isolated cases within families. However, in some instances, multiple first-degree relatives (parent, child, or sibling) may develop aneurysms, known as “familial aneurysms.”

These families have a higher risk of aneurysm development compared to the general population, warranting regular brain artery imaging for first-degree relatives. If an aneurysm is detected, treatment options are considered with a specialist. For those without aneurysms, periodic screenings may be recommended.

Studies, like the Familial Intracranial Aneurysm Study, show a 20% incidence of aneurysms among first-degree relatives of those with familial aneurysms, particularly in women and individuals with a history of smoking or high blood pressure.


Misdiagnosis of brain aneurysms occur in up to one quarter of patients when initially seeking medical attention. Whether these patients are seen by a primary care physician, an ER professional, or a nurse at a walk-in clinic, they are often sent home without having had a scan.