Memory loss after brain aneurysm surgeries, like coiling, is common. Some people experience memory loss for less than a day. For others, difficulties with memory can persist for months.

Surgical clipping and endovascular coiling are the two main treatments for brain aneurysms.

“Clipping” is an open surgery that involves placing a small clip across the neck of the aneurysm to block the blood flow. “Coiling,” on the other hand, is a minimally invasive procedure that involves inserting thin metal coils into the aneurysm to seal it off from the artery.

Keep reading to learn how brain aneurysm surgery, specifically coiling, may affect your memory and what you can expect during your recovery.

Brain aneurysms are weakened, bulging areas in the wall of an artery in the brain. An aneurysm can rupture, causing internal bleeding that can be life threatening.

To prevent a brain aneurysm rupture, doctors often recommend a minimally invasive procedure called “endovascular coiling.”

During coiling, a surgeon inserts small wire coils into the aneurysm to block the blood flow. While coiling is generally safer than clipping (an open surgery), coiling can sometimes affect certain functions, including both short-term and long-term memory.

Difficulties with memory after coiling may result from physical changes to your brain tissue. Memory loss is more likely to happen if your aneurysm affects the regions that are involved in memory processing, such as the hippocampus or frontal lobes.

Brain aneurysm surgery may also affect some aspects of memory more than others. A 2019 study found that surgery didn’t seem to affect numerical or working memory but did affect:

  • verbal-mechanical memory (recalling words)
  • verbal-logical memory (recalling stories)
  • visual memory (recalling images)

Despite their findings, the researchers did point out that earlier research had found varying results.

The timeline for memory recovery after brain aneurysm coiling varies from person to person. How long it takes for your memory to come back can depend on factors such as:

  • size and location of the aneurysm
  • duration of the procedure
  • your age and overall health

Some people experience transient global amnesia (TGA) after coiling. TGA is a temporary loss of memory that usually resolves within a day.

In a 2021 case study, 2 people with TGA after coiling couldn’t remember the 4 days leading up to the surgery. In both cases, memory returned within several hours.

Some people experience more prolonged memory issues. For example, a 2019 case study describes a person of 64 years who didn’t have complete memory recovery until 9 months after coiling. Another 2019 study of 92 people found that some memory issues were still present 12 to 48 months after surgery.

You may feel tired and weak for several weeks to months after the procedure. Rest is crucial during this period, but light activities and short walks can help improve your strength and stamina.

Other short-term physical issues may include hair loss and pain in the area where a catheter was inserted.

Here are some tips to aid in your recovery:

  • Get plenty of rest: Your brain needs time to heal, so ensure you get enough sleep and take naps if needed.
  • Stay hydrated and eat well: Proper nutrition supports your brain health.
  • Follow the doctor’s advice: Attend all follow-up appointments and take prescribed medications as directed.
  • Engage in brain-stimulating activities: These activities can help improve cognitive (thought-related) functions.

Long-term effects after brain aneurysm coiling can be both physical and emotional.

Physically, you may experience:

In addition to physical effects, you can also experience a loss of emotional restraint and other mental health changes. It’s important to be patient with yourself and understand that these effects are a part of the recovery process.

Be sure to openly share any concerns with a healthcare professional who understands your condition.

Can an unruptured aneurysm cause personality changes?

Though rare, an unruptured aneurysm can cause personality changes. The pressure exerted by the aneurysm on surrounding brain tissues can affect areas responsible for personality and behavior.

Symptoms of these shifts may include rapid changes in mood, irritability, and changes in social behavior.

If you or someone you know notices significant personality changes, it’s important to discuss these with a healthcare professional who can help specify the cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

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A 2015 study of more than 1,500 people in the United Kingdom showed that 83% of people who had undergone brain aneurysm coiling were alive and well for at least 10 years after the procedure.

Your life expectancy after coiling will depend on different factors such as:

  • age and overall health
  • presence of other medical conditions
  • characteristics of your aneurysm

Regular checks are essential to ensure that the aneurysm doesn’t come back (recur). Lifestyle changes can also contribute to better long-term outcomes. These include:

Brain aneurysm coiling is an effective and safe treatment that can save lives, but it may sometimes come with challenges, including memory difficulties.

Recovery is a gradual process. While some people may experience long-term effects, many people regain much of their memory within a day.

Staying informed, following a doctor’s recommendations, and engaging in supportive therapies can significantly aid your recovery. Patience and kindness toward yourself are key as you navigate the recovery process.