A Breakthrough in Aneurysm Treatment

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Today, I had the great opportunity to speak with Dr. Nasser Razack, the director of interventional neuroradiology at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.  Dr. Razack is one of the first in his field to perform a new treatment method for aneurysms that uses an Elmer’s Glue-like substance called Liquid Onyx to fill aneurysms, therefore preventing them from rupturing.  This is the latest tool for a new breed of doctors trying to fix life-threatening conditions in the brain without brain surgery. The new substance, Onyx HD500, is a liquid that can be used to treat an aneurysm, a weak spot in a blood vessel that balloons.

Such aneurysms can be deadly if they burst, and they are hard to treat without damaging the brain or critical blood vessels. Doctors inject Onyx into the aneurysm, where it quickly solidifies, cutting off the area’s blood supply.

The doctors using such tools go by the lengthy label “neurointerventionalists.” Just as interventional cardiologists brought new techniques a generation ago, replacing open-heart surgeries with stents to open arteries, these doctors bring minimally invasive techniques to the brain.

“It’s such a relatively new field that it’s very hard for people to understand it — that you can take a very small catheter and snake it into the brain,” said Dr. Nasser Razack, .

Razack has a simpler way of telling people his job. He calls himself a “plumber for the brain.”

Razack, Tampa General’s director of neurointerventional radiology, is among about 300 such specialists in the country. The field is so young that a national group representing such doctors just held its first independent yearly conference in 2004.

But the group is rapidly finding new ways, like Onyx, to treat brain disorders. Neurointerventionalists are pioneering treatments for stroke that include injecting drugs and using tiny tools to remove blood clots. The doctors also have developed other ways to treat aneurysms and tangles of blood vessels in the brain that cause seizures and headaches.

Their chief weapon is the microcatheter, a tiny tube that can be inserted into a blood vessel and guided to the brain, where it can be used to inject dye or drugs, inflate a balloon or pop out a tiny space-age tool.

During the procedure, doctors feed a catheter through an artery in the leg, up into the brain. The glue is slowly injected into the aneurysm and hardens in place. A balloon protects the rest of the brain from the glue and seals the aneurysm shut.

Today’s conversation was one of hope and encouragment, re-enforcing my mission of the Joe Niekro Foundation.  Breakthroughs such as this are what will being to save thousands of lives every year.  However, our destiny is still in our own hands and there are definite risk factors related to aneurysms, so be good to yourself, your health and your body….because you never know when your last day will come.

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