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Blake Christian: Aneurysm

New coiling procedure used to repair brain aneurysms

Blake Christian, 14, loves listening to music on his iPod and texting his friends. A barely visible scar in his hairline just above his ear is the only hint that Blake has an incredible story that’s unlike other teens his age.

In 2006, Blake collapsed in the hallway of his Owensboro home. His parents rushed to his side and quickly realized that something was very wrong. Blake was vomiting and grabbing his head. After a 911 call, a CT scan at the local hospital revealed an aneurysm had ruptured in Blake’s brain. He was immediately transported to Kosair Children’s Hospital, where specialists performed a craniotomy, a surgical procedure to remove part of the skull to gain access to the brain. Neurosurgeons repaired the aneurysm by placing a metal clip around its base. Following surgery, Blake spent 13 days in the hospital. He missed more than five months of school as he underwent therapy to help him regain his balance and address other cognitive issues related to the surgery.

“It took him almost two full years to completely recover from the aneurysm and surgery,” said Blake’s mom, Stacey.

The second time around

Fast forward to July 2009. Like most teenagers, Blake was scheduled to get braces on his teeth. Because of his history, Blake must undergo a head scan every three years. The next one was scheduled for 2010, but because the metal in braces could interfere with a scan, Blake’s parents decided to have him scanned early rather than dealing with putting the braces on only to have them taken off for a scan. The Christian family made a trip to a local medical office for what they thought would be a routine head scan. But the scan revealed that the aneurysm had recurred and was larger than the first. Blake and his family made an emergency trip back to Kosair Children’s Hospital that night. Thomas Moriarty, M.D., Ph.D., chief of pediatric neurosurgery, looked at Blake’s scan in consultation with Shervin Dashti, M.D., Ph.D., an endovascular neurosurgeon with Norton Neuroscience Institute.

Dr. Dashti successfully treated the aneurysm with a new procedure, known as endovascular coiling. This minimally invasive procedure is very different from the first procedure Blake underwent because the whole surgery was performed using a small catheter inserted through an artery in Blake’s leg. “The coiling is performed by maneuvering a
small plastic catheter into the aneurysm from the inside, where tiny metal coils obliterate the aneurysm,” Dr. Dashti said. “Several studies have indicated this less invasive coiling surgery is safer for some patients, often resulting in shorter hospital stays and recovery time and fewer complications.”

Since Blake had scar tissue from his first surgery, Dr. Dashti felt the coiling procedure was a safer option because he’d be working from inside the aneurysm rather than dealing with the outer scar tissue. For Blake the differences were like night and day. He went home the day after surgery with no limitations on his day-to-day life. He started school in August with the rest of his classmates.

Blake and his younger brother, Dylan, have found humor in what once was a very serious situation and now joke about the coils in Blake’s head.
“The doctor told me that the coils in my head are the equivalent in value to a Mercedes or two,” Blake said with a grin. “That’s a lot of bling!” Stacey and her husband, Cary, have a true appreciation for the seriousness of their son’s experiences.

“If these doctors and expertise were not in Louisville, we would have had to travel across the country to get this treatment,” Stacey said. “The two-hour trip from Owensboro is nothing when we know we’re getting the care Blake needs. Staying in Kentucky allowed us the important luxury of being close to our support system when we needed it most.”

What is an aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm is formed when bulging occurs on a weak artery in the brain, according to Dr. Dashti. Often a brain aneurysm causes no symptoms and goes unnoticed, but in some cases, like Blake’s first experience in 2006, it can rupture. This rupture can result in stroke and even death. Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include sudden or severe headache, neck pain, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light, fainting or loss of consciousness and seizures.

“It’s imperative anyone experiencing these symptoms seek medical attention immediately,” Dr. Dashti said. “The quicker we are able to assess and treat the aneurysm, the greater likelihood the patient will survive and potentially make a good recovery."

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