Has Joe Biden Had 2 Brain Aneurisms?

Alleged health concerns in late 2020 prompted the question: Is Biden too old to be president?

  • Published 1 December 2020
Image via Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Claim

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has experienced two brain aneurisms, one of which required surgery.

Origin

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After U.S. President-elect Joe Biden suffered a hairline fracture in his ankle while playing with his dog in late November 2020, the physical and mental health of the career politician once again took center stage in social media circles. The 78-year-old’s health raised the question of whether he was “too old” to be president. 

Some Twitter users even speculated on whether the seriousness of the soon-to-be 46th president’s fall, which involved a CT scan, was being downplayed.

In the weeks following the 2020 general election in the U.S., a number of Snopes readers asked us to investigate Biden’s physical-health history after he was declared the winner of the presidential contest. Questions posited by social media users included those that speculated whether Biden had also experienced two brain aneurisms, one of which required surgery. This is true.

After his bid for president was announced on April 25, 2019, Biden published a medical assessment on Dec. 15, 2019, in which his doctor described the aneurisms. (The report is also archived here for reference.)

“The most noteworthy health incident that Vice President Biden has experienced was his intracranial hemorrhage from a cerebral aneurism in 1988. His aneurism was repaired surgically,” wrote Dr. Kevin O’Connor, an associate professor of medicine and the director of executive medicine at George Washington University, who treated Biden at the time.

“During this workup, his team discovered a second aneurism, which had not bled. This was also treated. He has never had any recurrences of any aneurisms. A 2014 CT angiogram showed no recurrence of disease.”

An intracranial hemorrhage refers to any bleeding between the brain tissue and skull, or within the brain tissue itself, according to the nonprofit medical center Cleveland Clinic. This is also colloquially known as a “brain bleed.” The Columbia University Department of Neurology describes a cerebral aneurism as a “bulging, weakened area in the wall of an artery in the brain” that can result in an “abnormal widening, ballooning, or bleb.” This weakened area in the artery wall can pose the risk of a rupture. Ninety percent of cerebral aneurisms present without any symptoms and measure less than four-tenths of an inch in diameter, posing a low risk of rupture.

A computed tomography scan, more commonly known as a CT scan, is a non-invasive imaging procedure that provides more details than a general X-ray and can be used on any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs, noted Stanford Health Care. In short, it can be used to identify both hairline factures in an ankle and potential aneurisms in the brain that have ruptured.