A Meta-Analysis of Rupture Risk for Intracranial Aneurysms 10 mm or Less in Size Selected for Conservative Management Without Repair

Ronil V. Chandra, Julian Maingard, Lee Anne Slater, Nicholas K. Cheung, Leon T. Lai, Seana L. Gall, Amanda G. Thrift, Thanh G. Phan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Small unruptured intracranial aneurysms (UIAs) are considered to have low risk of rupture. The proportion of UIAs measuring 10 mm or less in size that rupture when selected for conservative management without repair is not well known. The aim of this study is to determine the proportion of UIAs that rupture by size threshold from ≤10 to ≤3 mm when selected for management without repair and to determine the level of precision and sources of heterogeneity in the rupture risk estimate. Methods: This study was prospectively registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) (CRD42019121522). The Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science Core Collection, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched (inception to August 2020). Studies with longitudinal follow-up of patients with UIAs ( ≤10 mm to ≤3 mm) without endovascular or neurosurgical repair were eligible. We included studies, which provided details of aneurysm size and in which UIA rupture was reported as an outcome. The primary outcome of the pooled proportion of UIA rupture during follow-up was synthesized with random-effects meta-analysis; heterogeneity was explored using meta-regression. Results: A total of 31 studies that included 13,800 UIAs ≤10 mm in size were eligible for data synthesis. The pooled proportion of ≤10 mm UIAs that ruptured when managed without repair was 1.1% (95% CI 0.8–1.5; I2 = 52.9%) over 3.7 years. Findings were consistent in sensitivity analyses at all the size stratified thresholds including ≤5 and ≤3 mm; rupture occurred in 1.0% (95% CI 0.8–1.3; I2 = 0%) of 7,280 ≤5 mm UIAs and 0.8% (95% CI 0.4–1.5; I2 = 0%) of 1,228 ≤3 mm UIAs managed without repair. In higher quality studies with lower risk of bias, rupture occurred in 1.8% (95% CI 1.5–2.0; I2 = 0%) over 3.9 years. In meta-regression, aneurysm size, shape, anatomical location, and exposure to prior subarachnoid hemorrhage were not identified as sources of heterogeneity. Conclusion: For every 1,000 UIAs that are 10 mm or less in size and selected for conservative management without repair, between 8 and 15 UIAs are estimated to rupture over 3.7 years. When stratified by size, these pooled rupture risk estimates are consistent and clinically applicable for ≤5 mm UIAs selected for management without repair. Systematic Review Registration: https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/, identifier: CRD42019121522.

Original languageEnglish
Article number743023
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2022


  • cerebral aneurysm
  • evidence based medicine (EBM)
  • intracranial aneurysm
  • subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

Cite this