MINNEAPOLIS - Wendy Salter keeps a selfie of sorts on her phone. It's a picture of blood vessels in her brain and an aneurysm protruding from them.
Showing the picture, she laughed, "It looks like a stick person so if you think about it, it's like your subconscious."
The head of the stick figure, the aneurysm, was found when she had dental problems. She explained, "I had an infection, an abscess, under my tooth and when they did a CT scan to see how deep it was they found it."
Neurointerventionalist Dr. Josser Delgado of Abbott Northwestern Hospital said a majority of aneurysms he has treated have been found when doctors are looking for something else. He said, "Even though the risk of a brain aneurysm breaking is fairly low, the problem is when and if it breaks they can die immediately." Those who survive, can suffer complications.
Salter's aneurysm is called a bifurcation aneurysm. What is bifurcation? Delgado explained, "Bifurcation is when a blood vessel comes in and divides into two." The aneurysm forms at the division of the vessels.
It's the type of aneurysm Delgado is treating in a study of a new device called the WEB Aneurysm Embolization System by Sequent Medical.
He said, "We are testing the safety of the device to be used in brain aneurysm but we're also hoping to determine whether the efficacy is better."
The WEB device, made of nickel and titanium mesh, is fed into the aneurysm through a micro-catheter, its marshmallow shape then deployed and, with clotting in that mesh, blood flow to the aneurysm stops.
"It sits inside the aneurysm in such a manner that it covers the entire aneurysm neck but it doesn't protrude into the vessels that are coming off the aneurysm," said Delgado.
In the current treatment, permanent stents must be placed in the vessels first and then coils are fed into the aneurysm to cause clotting.
Delgado said the WEB device does not require stents to be placed in the vessels.
Salter participated in the study last November. She said new images now show her aneurysm is going away. With a smile, she said, the top of the stick figure in her brain, is now "beheaded."
Abbott Northwestern hopes to enroll ten to 20 more local people in this national study.
Dr. Delgado would like to complete the study by the end of the year.
For more information, call Abbott Northwestern at 612-863-4808.