Trends in the size of treated unruptured intracranial aneurysms over 35 years

J Neurosurg 139:1328–1338, 2023

In the absence of clear guidelines and consistent natural history data, the decision to treat unruptured intracranial aneurysms (UIAs) is a matter of some controversy. Currently, decisions are often guided by a consensus of cerebrovascular specialist teams and patient preferences. It is unclear how paradigm-shifting developments in the detection and treatment of UIAs have affected the size of the UIAs that are selected for treatment. Herein, the authors aimed to study potential changes in the average size of the UIAs that were treated over time. They hypothesized that the average size of UIAs that are treated is decreasing over time.

METHODS A systematic search of the literature was performed to identify all studies describing the size of UIAs that were treated using any modality. Scatter diagrams with trend lines were used to plot the size of the aneurysms treated over time and assess for the presence of a potentially significant trend via statistical correlation tests. Subgroup analyses based on type of treatment, country of study, and specialty of the authors were performed.

RESULTS A total of 240 studies including 35,150 UIAs treated between 1987 and 2021 met all eligibility criteria and were entered in the analysis. The mean age of patients was 55.5 years, and 70.7% of the patients were females. There was a significant decrease in the size of treated UIAs over time (Spearman’s r = −0.186, p < 0.001), with a 0.71-mm decrease in the average size of treated UIAs every 5 years since 1987 and an annual mean dropping below 7 mm in 2012. This decreasing trend was present in surgically and endovascularly treated UIAs (p < 0.001 for both), in more developed and developing countries (p < 0.001 for both), within neurosurgical and non-neurosurgical specialties (p < 0.001 for both), most prominently in the US (Spearman’s r = −0.482, p < 0.001), and less prominently in Europe (Spearman’s r = −0.221, p < 0.001) and was not detected in East Asia.

CONCLUSIONS The present study indicates that based on the treated UIA size data published in the literature over the past 35 years, smaller UIAs are being treated over time. This trend is likely driven by safer treatments. However, future studies should elucidate the cost-effectiveness of treating smaller UIAs as well as the possible real-world contribution of this trend in preventing aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage.

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