A brain aneurysm is like a ticking time bomb, a health condition that at a moment’s notice can become deadly. Doctors don’t always have to perform open surgery to correct the problem. There’s a less invasive alternative.
Kay Shepherd needed a procedure to correct a life-threatening problem: an aneurysm in a blood vessel in her brain. The condition is like ballooning blister that could rupture suddenly, leaving her disabled or dead.
“I don’t want to go through the rest of my life wondering every time I get a headache if that’s the end,” 59-year-old Shepherd said.
Shepherd opted for a treatment using tiny coils snaked through her vessels into her brain. It’s a two-hour procedure that U-T Health Science Center neurosurgeon Dr. Christopher Koebbe says requires much less recovery time than more traditional open surgery.
“We can do it through a centimeter incision in the groin area as opposed to opening the skull to go in and place a clip,” Koebbe explained. “And so the patients often go home the next day after the procedure.”
At St. Luke's Baptist Hospital, Koebbe used moving x-ray called fluoroscopy to guide his way. He threaded the catheter past the patient’s heart, through the vessels in her neck and into her brain. The coils are made of platinum and are flexible so they can conform to the shape of the aneurysm. The width of about two human hairs, this small device can make a huge life-saving difference.
“The coil basically fills the aneurysm and then it induces clot,” Koebbe said. “And clot fills the aneurysm sack along with the coil mass and thus, blood doesn’t get into the aneurysm and blood can’t get out and rupture.”
Amazingly, this intervention is a cure and patients rare need a follow-up procedure.
Not all aneurysms can be treated this way. Some patients still need open surgery. But studies have shown faster recovery and fewer complications for patients who are able to have their problem cured with coils. ~