Reflections on the Higher Risk of Brain Aneurysm Diagnosis in Black and Hispanic Women

May 18, 2023

Dr. Grace Mandigo, Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at CUIMC, Director of Neuroendovascular Services at New York-Presbyterian Westchester

As many medical institutions redesign programs and research studies to remove implicit bias and improve inclusivity in gender, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds, we find that including these factors in delivering care is now more critical than ever. As a neurosurgeon operating here in Washington Heights on many women of color, particularly those suffering from a ruptured aneurysm or who could potentially be at risk, I continue to review the latest scholarly output with a lens on black and Hispanic women. 

The Latest Research

One recent article from The American Journal of Neuroradiology, "Higher Incidence of Unruptured Intracranial Aneurysms among Black and Hispanic Women on Screening MRA in Large Urban Populations," concluded that targeted screening for high-risk older women of Black or Hispanic descent would yield higher positive findings for brain aneurysms, which may mitigate the risk of rupture.

It is encouraging to see recent moves by the US Senate to provide critical funding for our field's research, especially since recent technological developments have expanded our ability to treat these cases in a more minimally invasive way, allowing patients to recover and return to their everyday lives and families more quickly. Early screenings, particularly in targeted high-risk populations, would positively impact treating aneurysms proactively and continue to raise life-saving awareness, especially in minority communities where access to care and health education opportunities remains challenging.

Know the Risks

The potential risk for aneurysm include:

  • Being female, age over 40
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Having a family history of brain aneurysms

In addition, an aneurysm may rupture in people who have never smoked and even those with normal blood pressure. Patients at particular risk for an aneurysm, or those diagnosed with an aneurysm should speak with their primary care physicians to get any help they need in controlling their blood pressure or quitting the use of tobacco products.

Columbia's Neuroendovascular Revolution  

Our doctors consider all relevant factors when deciding on an individual treatment plan, and our state-of-the-art facilities allow for a fully personalized approach to neurovascular intervention. And there's good news. Currently, there are more treatment options for brain aneurysms than ever before. Most frequently, our neurosurgeons treat aneurysms by clipping or coiling, stenting, and flow diversion. When an aneurysm cannot be treated with either of these standard methods, we sometimes perform a bypass procedure to reroute blood flow and safely shut down the affected artery's section of blood flow to the aneurysm.

Our surgeons and nurse practitioners specialize in diagnosing, managing and treating brain aneurysms and provide a multidisciplinary approach when evaluating each case. As a result, we've helped 1000s of women recover from an aneurysm, including ballerinas, triathletes, and working mothers. We even inspired Move with Bea, a partnership with The Brain Aneurysm and AVM Foundation (TAAF), to build awareness and help patients and their families find support and resource both in Washington Heights and nationally. This new research is only beginning to surface trends imperative for investigators to help physicians treat the person holistically, and further reconcile implicit bias in medicine and research across all socioeconomic statuses. Here at Columbia Neurosurgery, our world-class hospital's rapid advancements and growing team will continue to provide cutting-edge and truly custom cerebrovascular care for all patients we are privileged to serve.