Brain and Spine Care
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A brain aneurysm occurs when a bulge or balloon forms in a blood vessel. It usually begins at the base of the brain. When one leaks or ruptures, it causes bleeding into the brain, known as a hemorrhagic stroke. A ruptured aneurysm can quickly become life-threatening and requires immediate treatment.
According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, 6 million, or 1 in 50, people in America have an aneurysm that has not yet ruptured. Every 18 minutes, an aneurysm ruptures, and about 40 % of those are fatal.
“There are several theories about what causes brain aneurysms,” says Dr. Peter Bouz, a neurosurgeon with Kettering Health. “They usually occur in older people with high blood pressure, but younger people can also get them. Sometimes aneurysms even run in the family.”
In addition to family history, those over 40, women, and anyone with high blood pressure is at an increased risk for a brain aneurysm. Illegal drug use (particularly cocaine), smoking, or traumatic head injury also can lead to a higher probability of the condition.
Symptoms and diagnosis
The Brain Aneurysm Foundation offers several warning signs of an aneurysm. These include localized headache, dilated pupils, blurred or double vision, pain above and behind the eye, weakness or numbness, and difficulty speaking.
“Unfortunately, most cases go unknown unless the aneurysm ruptures,” explained Dr. Bouz. “But the most common symptoms include severe headaches or the patient may become sleepy or comatose.” He added that some aneurysms are diagnosed incidentally while the patient is examined for other conditions.
“Once diagnosed, a decision must be made whether or not to treat it. And if so, the best course of action,” said Dr. Bouz. “We look at the risks of treatment versus observation, and we can tailor the treatment to the patient.”
Treatment of brain aneurysms
When identified early, treatment for brain aneurysms is done through one of two primary methods.
The more traditional method is open surgery. “A part of the skull is removed, and you put a clip across the blood vessel so the blood cannot enter it and cause the aneurysm to rupture,” said Dr. Bouz. “But over the last several years, a new minimally invasive endovascular treatment has surfaced.”
The endovascular procedure does not require brain surgery. Instead, a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel, entering through a small puncture in the groin or the arm. A wire is then floated through the blood vessel into the aneurysm, and platinum coils are deposited to avoid blood flow and prevent the rupture.
While there are pros and cons to either treatment, having options allows treatments to be tailored for the individual patient.
A diverse team for the best care
Choosing the best care can be difficult, especially with the complex dangers of treating brain aneurysms. The team at Kettering Health is fellowship-trained, which means having more years of specialized study to increase their expertise and skill set in treating brain aneurysms.
“We meet regularly to discuss complex cases,” said Dr. Bouz. “We have multi-specialty input from different physicians. That helps us make a more appropriate and comprehensive plan for each patient. In addition, since we are a smaller group, we can deliver more personalized care and spend more time with our patients.”
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