Insight on aneurysms in light of Duke Bainum's death

Dr. John Anegawa
Dr. John Anegawa

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Duke Bainum's death after suffering an aneurysm comes just a few days after local high school and NFL football star, Pio Sagapolutele died from a brain aneurysm.

What exactly is an aneurysm? And are there any warning signs?

What's scary about aneurysms is they're sudden, and there's not much warning.

But there are ways to lower your risk of having one.

It's like a balloon, filled with blood. If the aneurysm bursts, the chance of dying or becoming severely disabled is high - 60% to 80%.

"They tend to occur on the weak spot on the artery walls," said Dr. John Anegawa, a neurologist at the VA Medical Center in Moanalua.

He says people often times survive the first rupture. It's the second one that's typically fatal.

One symptom to look out for is what's called a warning bleed.

"A thunderclap headache. Boom! Out of the blue, out of the sky, severe headache, often times the worst headache you've ever felt," said Dr. Anegawa.

If you get a warning bleed, Dr. Anegawa says go to the emergency room.

He says many patients ignore it, because the headache goes away after a few minutes or a few hours.

Other red flags include slurred speech, problems moving your arm, and double vision.

Aneurysms can occur on many parts of the body - the brain, the heart, even in the abdomen.

"The aorta starts at the heart, and works all the way down to your belly button area. It's also a common area for aneurysms. They tend not to rupture suddenly, but they can," said Dr. Anegawa.

Risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Dr. Anegawa's advice to help prevent aneurysms is basic 'Health 101' - exercise, and eat right.

Reports say Bainum suffered from an aortic aneurysm, but as of Wednesday, that has not yet been confirmed.