ally to treat this condition,” says Joseph Gemmete, M.D., director of interventional neuroradiology at U-M and an assistant professor of radiology. “This is a very high-risk condition, with patients facing as much as a one-in-three chance of suffering a stroke in the next year. We had been using stents designed for arteries in the body, but this is specifically for the brain.”
Another common cause of stroke is burst blood vessels, which cause massive bleeding (hemorrhage) inside the brain and rob the brain of oxygen, causing a stroke. The vessels usually burst open at weak spots in their walls, often at a bulging spot called an aneurysm or a tangled web of abnormal vessels called an arteriovenous malformation or AVM.
"These, too, can be treated without open surgery, says U-M neurosurgeon B. Gregory Thompson, M.D., head of cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery at U-M who performs both open-cranial microsurgery and minimally invasive endovascular procedures.
“An aneurysm is a ballooning, a little weak spot like one on a tire when it’s about to blow. When aneurysms rupture, about half the patients don’t survive. That’s why we would really like to prevent the first hemorrhage,” he explains. “Traditionally, they were treated with open surgery, through the skull. But now we can offer many patients a minimally invasive treatment using coils and stents.”
As many as 30 percent of all brain aneurysm patients treated through U-M’s Endovascular Surgical Neuroradiology program receive minimally invasive procedures, a dramatic increase in just the last few years. The opportunity to have the condition remedied without surgery is a tremendous relief to many patients, says Thompson, especially those whose families seem “cursed” by an inherited risk for aneurysms that have killed many of their relatives suddenly and without warning.
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