Baptist Health raises awareness of brain aneurysms
Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville part of international trials and new technologies
September 16, 2014 | Jacksonville, FL
Dana Bean was only six years old when she was playing on the playground and saw her mom collapse in front of her from a brain aneurysm.
That was the last time she saw her mom. Three days later, her mom passed away at the hospital. She also lost her grandfather to a brain aneurysm.
Bean, of Fernandina Beach, has been dealing with an aneurysm of her own for the past six years after having an MRI following years of headaches.
Brain aneurysms can occur at any age, but are most prevalent in people ages 50 to 60. A person with one or more blood relatives who had intracranial aneurysms are also more at risk. Awareness is being raised in September as part of National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month.
While about 4 percent of the population may be living with an unruptured aneurysm, brain aneurysms are more common in women by a 3 to 2 ratio.
A cerebral aneurysm (also known as an intracranial aneurysm) is a weak or thin spot on a blood vessel in the brain that balloons out and fills with blood. The bulging aneurysm can leak or rupture and may put pressure on a nerve or surrounding brain tissue.
Bean, 52, opted to have the small aneurysm watched, which she describes as a “ticking time bomb” in her head until hope came through neurovascular surgeon Ricardo Hanel, MD, Phd, and a new procedure at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville. The Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville is part of two international clinical trials dealing with various size aneurysms. A braided cylindrical mesh also called a flow diverter was inserted through Bean’s groin and up to her brain to slow the flow of blood into the aneurysm and allows the diseased vessel to heal.
“The question mark of when and if it was going to happen was always there. It’s one of those things where you wake up in the middle of the night and think what if and you start thinking about the people you love,” Bean said.
Every year, an estimated 40,000 people in the United States experience a ruptured cerebral aneurysm so identifying aneurysms early is key.
“It’s very important to recognize this is not a rare condition. An aneurysm typically presents as the worst headache of one’s life,” said Dr. Hanel, director of the Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville along with neurovascular surgeon Eric Sauvageau, MD. “If someone has a migraine every day and there is a change in the headache pattern, that is an important red flag and you should seek medical attention right away.”
Dr. Sauvageau said that since a headache is one of the most frequent reasons why people go to the hospital, an aneurysm is a diagnosis that can be missed.
“If the diagnosis is missed and people go back home, their chance of bleeding again is horrendous and when people bleed again they usually are not lucky the second time,” Dr. Sauvageau said.
But if an aneurysm is caught in time, Dr. Sauvageau said, “We can fix it with minimal risk. It’s not as dismal as it used to be.”
Dr. Sauvageau said if a person has a family history of brain aneurysm, they should have a brain imaging scan, which should be repeated about every 10 years.
Bean, who is married and a sales manager for a dairy, said she hopes by sharing her story that more people will be helped.
“If people’s lives can be saved and people can keep their mothers for a very long time, it’s very important,” Bean said.
As far as her treatment and new technologies at Baptist Jacksonville, she said Dr. Hanel is her “lifesaver.”
“He looks you in the eye and gives you a hug and makes you feel like everything is going to be fine and you’re going to be safe and are in good hands,” Bean said. “It’s an amazing thing they are doing. I think of how many people this could save.”
Dr. Hanel said it is important to go to a center that has experience with all treatment modalities and all the most advanced technology available.
“When you have a combined approach of using various treatment options depending on the type of aneurysm, there is plenty of evidence that the results will be better,” Dr. Hanel said.
Treatments vary depending on the location and size of the aneurysm. Some cases may still involve open surgery while others are minimally invasive.
Cerebral aneurysms can be congenital, resulting from an inborn abnormality in an artery wall and are also more common in people with certain genetic diseases, such as connective tissue disorders and polycystic kidney disease, and certain circulatory disorders, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Some other risk factors include trauma or injury to the head, high blood pressure, infection, tumors, other diseases of the vascular system, cigarette smoking and drug abuse.
“It’s important to control your blood pressure and to stay away from cigarettes,” Dr. Hanel said. “Aneurysms can be prevented and can be treated before they rupture.”
Symptoms of an aneurysm can include:
- Localized migraine-like headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stiff neck or neck pain
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Pain above and behind the eye
- Dilated pupils
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of sensation
- Progressive weakness or numbness
If you have a family history of brain aneurysms or want more information about screenings, visit Lyerly Neurosurgery and the Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center at Baptist Jacksonville or call 904.448.3416.