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Interventional Medicine Gives New Hope to Patients Suffering from Aneurysms, Strokes, and Other Conditions

May 2001 — Four years after his wife passed away, Wayne faced another reminder of life's fragility when his daughter suffered a brain hemorrhage last August.

"It was sudden," recalled Crystal, now 17. "I was talking to my boyfriend on the phone when I felt two sharp pains running from my head all the way down the left side of my body. The phone just dropped out of my hand."

Wayne rushed his daughter to nearby Memorial Regional Hospital, where Crystal was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage caused by an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a tangle of abnormally connecting arteries and veins inside the brain. While this condition could be treated by surgical removal, it posed serious risks and would require a prolonged recovery time.

Fortunately, Memorial offered an alternative approach: endovascular embolization, a relatively new procedure in which the AVM is blocked off, rather than removed, so that blood no longer flows through it. What makes the procedure so remarkable is that it dramatically minimizes the risk to the patient and allows for a more rapid recovery - all because it is performed without cutting into the skull.

During the procedure, a micro-fine catheter is inserted into an artery through a minor incision, usually in the groin area, and guided through the blood vessels via radiologic imaging until it reaches the AVM. There, it seals off the AVM using surgical glue, metal coils, or other materials, leaving the surrounding tissue undisturbed.

Minimally Invasive Procedures

Endovascular embolization is one of several minimally invasive procedures offered by Memorial Healthcare System to combat strokes, brain aneurysms, aortic aneurysms, cancer, and certain other conditions. Because none of these interventional procedures involve major surgery, they present considerable advantages such as decreased risk, cost, and recuperation time.

Interventional medicine gives us a world of opportunity for safer treatment," according to Dr. Hoang Duong, Memorial's Director of Interventional Neuroradiology. "It can be crucial for our elderly patients and for anyone who has a severe condition that would otherwise be difficult to treat."

Hoang Duong, MD

Hoang Duong, MD
Director of
Interventional Neuroradiology
Memorial Regional Hospital

As part of its commitment to expanding its vascular services program, Memorial is creating a multimillion-dollar neurointerventional radiology suite, which opens this year. Its sophisticated resources are expected to facilitate the treatment offered by Memorial's multidisciplinary team.

A Second Chance at Life

During Crystal's stay at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, her family got a surprising morale boost when someone working with the hospital's Child Life Program gave her a Beanie Baby stuffed animal. By complete coincidence, the tag on the animal's ear said that his birthday was May 2, 1996 - the exact day that Crystal's mother had died.

"It was like an angel had been brought to her bedside," said Wayne.

The Beanie Baby instantly became Crystal's good-luck charm along with a gift from her boyfriend - a teddy bear aptly named Hope.

Duong performed the endovascular embolization in less than three hours, and the procedure was a complete success. A follow-up appointment last autumn revealed no further problems.

Fully recovered, Crystal now juggles her usual activities, including student government, cheerleading practice, and a part-time job.

"We want to extend our thanks to the hospital staff, our family, and friends for supporting us all the way through," said Wayne. "We're so blessed."