FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – An estimated 6.5 million people in the United States are walking around with a potential ticking time bomb: a brain aneurysm.
When it ruptures, time and proper medical intervention are vital, as it was for Charlene Strass.
On May 17, 2021, the 54-year old Fort Lauderdale resident was in the midst of a conversation with two people in her apartment when something strange happened.
“And all of a sudden my vision got, like, pixelated,” she said.
Strauss ultimately wound up in the emergency room of Broward Health Medical Center, where doctors rushed her into surgery for a brain aneurysm.
“An aneurysm is a bubble on the side wall of an artery that, in this case, feeds our brain,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Shay Moskowitz.
He said arteries have a layer reinforcement which, for a variety of reasons, can develop a weak spot.
“And over time, the blood pressure pushes against the layers to form that bubble that is the aneurysm and then it breaks, causes the bleed, which causes the damage,” he said.
While a less invasive method called coiling is commonly use to repair an aneurysm, Strauss’s case was so severe it required surgical intervention to repair the damaged artery with a small clip.
“As you can see, it’s a small titanium clip and this opens slightly and the tissue, in this case the aneurysm, can be trapped between the blades and could seal the aneurysm shut with this spring,” Moskowitz said.
While recovery can take several weeks and patients often still face physical struggles, Strauss defied the odds.
She was quickly back to her daily routine, without even the need for physical therapy.
“If anything, I have a little bit of fear right now that it could happen again, but I’ve been told that’s really not the case and that I should go on and live my life the best I can,” she said.
Strauss is indeed fortunate: 50% of all brain aneurysms result in death and 25% of those who survive never regain full function.
Moskowitz said there are several risk factors for developing an aneurysm, some are preventable, others are not.
Modifiable risk factors, meaning factors that you can take preventions against are:
- High blood pressure
- Use of street drugs
Family history and age are also factors. Women too have a slightly higher risk.
In general, routine screening through brain imaging is not recommended unless someone has a strong family history of aneurysms.