Giving Brain Aneurysm Patients New Hope

Armen Hareyan's picture
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For 48-year-old William Taylor of Cordova, Ill., the long drive from the Quad Cities area to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago was worth the trip if it meant the possibility of keeping the brain aneurysms he has been suffering from for the past nine years from ballooning and growing any further.

"I've traveled a long way and it's been a bumpy road, but I am very hopeful," said Taylor who drove to Chicago from East Moline, Ia., with his fiancee.

Patients like Taylor, who suffer from hard-to-treat intracranial aneurysms, traditionally undergo an endovascular procedure which involves injecting coils and stents through a catheter into the aneurysm sac. The stents and coils fill the aneurysm and reduce blood flow into the weakened area of the blood vessel in hopes of keeping the aneurysm from growing any bigger and possibly rupturing. Since 2001, Taylor has undergone four different procedures and has had more than 87 stents and coils placed in his brain to treat two aneurysms, but they continued to get bigger and bigger.

Now, endovascular surgeons at Rush are offering a more effective, non-invasive procedure where a liquid polymer material called Onyx is slowly injected into the aneurysm. Once it is in place, it solidifies into a spongy, cohesive material. Using an image-guidance system, a catheter is placed in the femoral artery in the leg to thread tiny instruments up to the brain vessels. Then, the liquid material, Onyx, is slowly pumped into the weakened area of the blood vessel to completely block blood flow.

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"While coiling and stenting offer patients significant benefits due to its minimally invasive nature, one of the shortfalls can be their long-term durability, especially in very large aneurysms like in Mr. Taylor's case," said Dr. Demetrius Lopes, an endovascular neurosurgeon and assistant professor of neurosurgery at Rush. "Onyx, along with a stent, will completely block the blood flow from seeping into the area of the weakened blood vessel and prevent it from growing and possibly rupturing compared to stenting alone."

An aneurysm is a pocket formed on a weakened vessel wall, which can disrupt normal blood flow, develop clots and in some cases, burst. Onyx, can provide patients who have either recurrent aneurysms after coiling or those that are unsuitable for coiling upfront another minimally-invasive alternative.

"I explain to my patients that there are numerous options for treating aneurysms, but with the stent and Onyx, we are able to completely block the blood flow and stop the vessel from weakening further," said Lopes.

"It's as though the ticking time bombs in my head have been diffused," said Taylor. "The doctors back home saved my life when they discovered the aneurysms nine years ago, but Dr. Lopes gave me my life back."

"Not only am I looking forward to a new chance at life, but it's just in time for my new chance at love. My wedding is scheduled for July 12, which also is my 50th birthday."

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