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If you were to rummage through toolboxes and junk drawers in households across the U.S., chances are very good that you would come across items like rubber bands, chewing gum and, of course, a tube of superglue. Interestingly, a medical variant of this common household item was recently used in a first-of-its-kind medical procedure in a Kansas hospital to help cure a newborn’s brain condition.
In late May, the parents of a newborn girl — we’ll call her Ashlyn — were understandably concerned about their daughter’s health after she slept excessively for nearly ten days before starting to experience nausea and prolonged bouts of crying.
They eventually took Ashlyn to the local emergency room, where doctors decided to perform an ultrasound after observing a slight rise in her fontanel (i.e., the soft spot on a baby’s head). They then saw something potentially problematic and had the girl transferred to the University of Kansas Hospital.
Here, the neurosurgery team discovered that Ashlyn had an almond-sized aneurysm located inside her delicate brain.
For those unfamiliar with a brain aneurysm, it is essentially a bulging, weakened area in an artery of the brain. The danger is that the brain aneurysm can bleed and eventually rupture, releasing an excess of blood into the brain that can result in a stroke.
The problem presented by Ashlyn’s condition was that the normal method of repairing brain aneurysms — opening the skull — was simply too dangerous given her small size and delicate condition.
“The difficulty is, on a child so small, any amount of blood loss represents a significant percentage of her overall blood volume,” said Dr. Koji Ebersole, the neurosurgeon in charge of Ashlyn’s care. “So a surgery on the brain to approach something that wants to bleed — we could have been in a situation with bleeding we could not keep up with, and that would have been life-threatening.”
After viewing an image of the brain aneurysm via an angiogram — a procedure that enables physicians to view the flow of blood through various vessels in the body — Ebersole became convinced that he could close it using surgical superglue.
The primary problem, however, was that the surgical superglue procedure is typically only used on adults and there are no surgical tools small enough to perform it on infants.
Undeterred, Ebersole decided to undertake a first-of-its-kind procedure in which he used a micro-catheter — as thin as a piece of hair — to work his way from Ashlyn’s neck to the brain aneurysm, which he then sealed with the superglue.
To date, the surgery has been a resounding success as Ashlyn was released from the hospital a week later, and is now expected to live a long and happy life.
Stories such as these are truly remarkable. We can only hope that all pediatric patients receive such compassionate and effective care from medical professionals.
Please visit our website to learn more about your options if you or a family member has suffered a traumatic brain injury because of what you believe was medical malpractice.
Source: CNN, “Baby’s brain aneurysm halted — by superglue,” Leslie Tucker, June 10, 2013