New technology making it easier to treat brain aneurysms

They're often discovered when it's too late and one-in-fifteen people could develop them in their lifetime.

Brain aneurysms are abnormal bulgings of arteries. When they rupture, stroke, brain damage or death can follow.

Catching the problem in time usually means cutting open the skull to treat it. But a new procedure is giving some patients, a leg up.

Faith Mitchell likes country music, and country living.

Faith Mitchell, suffered from a brain aneurysm, explains what she likes to do, "I like to fish that's relaxing just sit there and look at the water."

This 70 year old southern bell is enjoying what life has to offer. But it wasn't long ago her life took a scary turn. After a nasty fall, painful headaches set in. A CAT scan revealed an aneurism lodged behind her eye in a very deep part of the brain, a dangerous and almost inoperable spot.

Mitchell describes how the news made her feel, "I was really scared because I didn't know what to expect."

When Neurologist Doctor Scott Standard saw Faith's scans, he decided to use a newly FDA approved pipeline stent to remove her aneurysm.

Scott Standard, MD, Chief Neurosurgery Department Saint Thomas Hospital, describes how this is ground breaking, "It's a revolutionary advance in terms of actually being able to reconstruct the blood vessels within the brain."

Traditionally, surgeons remove a small section of the skull, and go underneath the brain to clip the aneurysm, but with the pipeline stent, everything is done through an artery in the leg.

Standard, MD, explains how it works. "It allows blood flow to occur through the inside of the stent but also into the very small blood vessels around the aneurysm."

Once inserted, the stent expands against the walls of the artery and across the aneurysm, cutting off blood flow. The blood remaining in the blocked-off aneurysm forms a clot, which reduces the chance for it to grow or rupture.

Standard, MD, explains how quickly it can heal, "The aneurysm will completely heal around the stent and completely go away."

Now Faith's put her scare behind her.

Mitchell explains how the recovery has been going, "I'm getting stronger every day, feeling better every day."

For now, the pipeline stent is only FDA approved for certain types of complicated aneurysms. The stent also cuts recovery time from six months to only ten days.

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