New Technology Offers Lower-Risk Treatment for Unruptured Aneurysms 

Better outcomes ease anxiety by offering permanent repairs

DAYTON, Ohio (December 10, 2019) – Living with an unruptured brain aneurysm can be a great source of anxiety for those who have been diagnosed with it, but advances in endovascular surgery provide the hope needed to put patients’ minds at ease.

A brain aneurysm is a weak spot in an artery inside of the skull that balloons outward and has the potential to burst or rupture. They are often discovered by accident when a patient is receiving imaging for something such as a headache or other unrelated issue.  In other cases, they can be discovered when screening individuals with a number of risk factors. 

“The most common risk factor is family history,” said Bryan Ludwig, MD, a neurointerventionalist with the Clinical Neuroscience Institute. “Brain aneurysms are genetic, and they do run in families, so if a first-degree relative has a brain aneurysm rupture, oftentimes we will screen the other close relatives of that person to make sure they aren't currently at risk for the same fate.”

Dr. Ludwig also explains that a person’s aneurysm risk increases if they have high blood pressure, smoke tobacco, or use illegal drugs such as methamphetamines, heroin, and cocaine. However, achieving a positive diagnosis is only the beginning; neurologists then need to determine if it should be treated or simply observed over a period of time. If the aneurysm is smaller and the patient does not possess a variety of risk factors, then a specialist may simply decide it’s wiser to keep it under periodic observation.

“Statistics and literature actually support the position that many small aneurysms don't need to be treated, and people live their whole lives with these things, and they'll never cause an issue,” said Dr. Ludwig, who practices with Premier Physician Network.  “It’s even estimated that between 3 and 7 percent of the population might actually have one but will never even know it. So we're constantly trying to delicately use the latest research to predict who is going to have a potential problem in their lifetime and who isn't.”

Research, however, can sometimes do very little to lighten the psychological burden that comes with such a diagnosis, as the news of an unruptured aneurysm can be a source of tremendous anxiety. This is why Dr. Ludwig and his colleagues at the Clinical Neuroscience Institute spend a great deal of time explaining possible treatment pathways and options to newly diagnosed patients. Though some lower-risk patients might opt for a wait-and-see approach, others decide to treat the problem through endovascular surgery.

“The treatment we offer now has improved tremendously over the last four decades,” Dr. Ludwig said.  “Most people opt for surgery, even if we tell them the risk of their aneurysm rupturing is fairly low over the next five years.  It’s a fairly easy decision when they learn that the risk of a surgical complication is even lower than a potential rupture.”

Endovascular aneurysm repair typically only requires a one-day hospital stay and patients are usually able to return to normal work activities within three days. The procedure itself only requires an incision that is less than a centimeter either in the wrist or the leg.

“The tools and the technology we use continue to evolve at light speed,” Dr. Ludwig said.  “Every year we gain access to new devices that make things even easier and safer. Just last month, for example, we were the first in the area to use what’s known as a WEB® device that basically seals off the aneurysm.”

 For more information about unruptured aneurysm treatment or to find a Premier Physician Network physician near you, visit our Find a Doctor page.

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