Brain Aneurysms: The Family Connection


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — If you’ve been to the doctor’s office, you know about the paperwork you have to fill out before you get to see the physician. The questions about your family history of cancer, heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes … each member of your family who has one of these conditions, increases your own risk of having it. But there is one condition that doctors don’t ask about, and it’s the one question that could save your life, and the lives of your family members. Ivanhoe talks to a doctor on a mission to add two words to that questionnaire that could impact your health – Brain Aneurysms.

Faith plays a major role in Ezra Sneed’s and Rhonda Baker’s lives.

Sneed says, “When you’re trusting the lord, you just feel good.”

These two sisters have a lot to be thankful for.

Baker says, “One morning I woke up and my vision was kind of blurry.”

An MRA scan showed Rhonda had not one, but two giant brain aneurysms.

Ricardo Hanel, MD, PhD, Neurosurgeon at Baptist Health, Jacksonville explains, “A brain aneurysm is like a bulge, like a stretch on a blood vessel.”

Doctor Hanel was able to snake a catheter from Rhonda’s groin to her brain, diverting blood from the aneurysm and stopping it from growing. He was also able to save Rhonda’s older sister from the same fate, or even worse.

Sneed says, “It was a surprise. I didn’t know what an aneurysm was.”

Doctor Hanel wants to change that. He is on a mission to spread the word about brain aneurysms and the family connection.

“It’s very important to educate all the way from primary care physicians to the whole population.” Explains Doctor Hanel.

If you have first degree relatives with a brain aneurysm, your risk of having one goes up from four to six percent.

Ezra had the same minimally invasive procedure as her sister and they are both living proof that it’s important to talk about brain aneurysms with your doctor and your family.

The MRA scan used to detect brain aneurysms is done on the same machine that’s used for an MRI, but it just looks at brain vessels and allows doctors to determine whether to do a procedure or monitor it. It’s vital that you find the aneurysm before it’s too late. If it ruptures, you have a four out of ten chance of dying from it. And, only about 20 percent who do survive get back to their full capacity afterwards.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Bob Walko, Editor, and Roque Correa, Videographer


REPORT #3033

BACKGROUND: An aneurysm is an abnormal opening of an artery in the brain that results from a weakening of the inner muscular layer of a blood vessel wall. The vessel develops a “blister-like” opening that can become thin and rupture without warning. The bleeding that occurs in the space around the brain is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), which can lead to a stroke, coma and/or death. Aneurysms are usually found at the base of the brain in an area called the subarachnoid space and can range in size, from about 1/8 inch to nearly one inch. Aneurysms larger than one inch are called giant aneurysms and considered high risk and are difficult to treat. The exact mechanisms by which cerebral aneurysms develop, grow, and rupture are unknown. There are several factors that contribute to the formation of cerebral aneurysms, including hypertension (high blood pressure), cigarette smoking, congenital (genetic) predisposition, injury or trauma to blood vessels, and complication from some types of blood infections.


DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT: To diagnose an aneurysm, a person is given tests to determine whether they’ve had bleeding into the space between the brain and surrounding tissues. Tests may also be given if a person shows symptoms of an unruptured brain aneurysm, such as pain behind the eye, changes in vision or double vision. Diagnostic tests include a computerized tomography, or CT scan; cerebrospinal fluid test; magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI; or a cerebral angiogram. The use of imaging tests to screen for unruptured brain aneurysms is generally not recommended unless a person is at high risk such as a family history of brain aneurysms, or a congenital disorder that increases the risk of developing an aneurysm. There are two common treatment options. One is surgical clipping, which is a procedure to close off an aneurysm. Another is endovascular treatment, which is less invasive. A catheter is inserted into an artery, usually the wrist or groin, and then threaded through the body to the aneurysm. The surgeon uses a flow diverter, an intraluminal flow disrupter, a stent or coils, or different combinations of various devices to destroy the aneurysm from inside the blood vessel.

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A NEW DEVICE FOR ANEURYSMS: A recent international study led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and other institutions, shows results on the use of a novel device for treating brain aneurysms. The study involved a device called Woven Endobridge (WEB), which consists of a tiny mesh plug that can be inserted through a vessel and placed into an aneurysm to block blood from going into the bulging region. This stabilizes the vessel and prevents the aneurysm from rupturing. Researchers found that among 671 patients with 683 brain aneurysms who were treated with the device and followed for an average of 11 months, adequate blocking occurred in 85.7% of aneurysms, and complete blocking in 57.8%. “We hope that our results will help guide interventionalists in the appropriate use of the WEB so that patients with challenging brain aneurysms will have a safe option for care,” said lead author Adam A. Dmytriw, MD, MPH, MSc, an interventional neuroradiology, and endovascular neurosurgery fellow at MGH.


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Wesley Roberts

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