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Brain aneurysm repair saves East Syracuse teacher

Brain scanUpstate is one of the only hospitals in the nation with the ability to treat brain aneurysms using a special type of glue and without cutting into the patient's skull. That's because Eric Deshaies MD, director of Upstate's neurovascular center,  is a neurosurgeon with additional specialization in endovascular techniques.

Earlier this year, Deshaies took care of a third grade teacher, Mary Cook, who had an aneurysm the size of a golf ball sitting behind her eye. She had suffered headaches for a long time but had no idea the cause. Such aneurysms can kill people by rupturing. Together, doctor and patient were interviewed for Health Link on Air radio, which airs at 9 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 20.

"Traditionally aneurysms like this would be treated with surgery where you go into the brain and put metal clips around the aneurysm. But the risks of problems, of dying and having weakness, paralysis, or problems with talking are very high," Deshaies says.

"With a technique that came about in the 1990s, we are able to do a minimally-invasive technique where we go through the artery in the leg and, using x-rays, take a little micro-catheter a few hairs thick. We put it inside the aneurysm and deliver these things called coils, which are made of platinum and look like the childhood Slinkys that you fill the aneurysm with. And then you can put a stent, which is a little metal tube, across the base of that," he continues. "However, that in and of itself, also has some risks. The aneurysm can come back and quite frequently needs to be retreated."

Now there is a new glue called Onyx HD500. "This is a special type of glue that actually doesn't stick to the vessels but is a chemical that will actually solidify within the aneurysm," Deshaies says. "It's a liquid that fills the aneurysm, and then once the blood washes out one of the components of the liquid, the liquid solidifies and forms a hard mass within the aneurysm."

This does not remove the aneurysm. Rather, it stops the blood flow inside the aneurysm. "The aneurysm is still there. It's sort of like filling a balloon with a substance until you can't put air in it any longer. An aneurysm is a sac that looks like a ballon that's filled with blood. By putting the glue inside, it stops the new blood flow into the aneurysm, and takes away that risk of hemorrhaging or bleeding into the brain."

The chance of the aneurysm recurring are significantly lower through use of the glue than other methods, Deshaies says.

Cook says after the procedure, she rested at home with a bit of a headache and was back to work within 10 days.  Gradually the headaches that used to plague her have gone away. "I haven't had a headache in about six months," Cook says in the interview.

Listen to the interview on Health Link on Air radio.

Learn more about Dr. Deshaies.

Read a newspaper story about this case in The Post-Standard.