Chinese University study to change lives of cerebral aneurysm patients

A cerebral aneurysm can rupture at any time, but a new treatment led by Chinese University can eliminate the swelling and the risk to life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 6:04am

A trial in local hospitals has proved that a new treatment can eliminate swelling in the wall of the brain's blood vessels and prevent their rupture.

Led by Chinese University, it was the first clinical study in Asia to test the insertion of a metal woven tube that blocks blood from flowing into the bulge - known as a cerebral aneurysm - causing it to shrink.

Results showed that for unruptured or recurrent bulges, it was a more effective treatment than the common method of filling the bulge with a coil. Using the coils, there is a 15 per cent chance that the bulge may recur.

"Hospitals that have participated in this study are now using [the tube] for suitable patients. We have consensus that it is a reliable method," said Professor Simon Yu Chun-ho, director of the university's Vascular and Interventional Radiology Foundation Clinical Science Centre, which conducted the research.

He estimated that about seven in eight cerebral aneurysm patients treated in public hospitals came only after their aneurysms had ruptured and therefore were not suitable for the treatment.

But most of the remaining cases were suitable, especially those whose aneurysms were large or fusiform - wide in the middle and tapering at the ends.

Cerebral aneurysms are formed like blown-up balloons, and are caused by weakening in the vessel wall. They may be related to high blood pressure or other factors and occur in about 3 per cent of the city's population, Yu said.

The flexible tube, or flow diverter, blocks the aneurysm's opening while enabling normal blood flow in the vessel.

Like coils, the diverters are inserted through a thigh blood vessel and placed in the affected area through minimally invasive surgery.

The study was conducted with 143 cerebral aneurysm patients from seven public and private hospitals from 2008 to 2011. More than 70 per cent of the aneurysms had shrunk in a year although 3.5 per cent of the patients suffered a major stroke or death after the surgery.

One of the patients, Fanny Tang, a flight attendant in her 40s, said she felt anxious and helpless after being diagnosed with a fusiform cerebral aneurysm in 2010. The aneurysm might have burst without warning and could have been fatal.

Though she had no symptoms, her life was far from normal after she learned about her condition.

"I couldn't plan ahead, not even simple plans like a birthday party, because I didn't know if I would wake up the next day," she said.

She learned about the new diverter method and had surgery two months later. Her aneurysm was gone after a few months and in the following year she was back to her old life of frequent flying and visiting different countries.