FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – It’s called a silent killer.
Warnings are rare but of the one million people who suffer a ruptured brain aneurysm each year, almost half will die and only a third will recover without disabilities.
But with advancements in imaging and treatment, doctors are working to help patients survive, and thrive, following an aneurysm.
74-year-old Brian O’Donoghue is a Fort Lauderdale retiree who loves to golf.
His game was cut short in November of 2021 when he suddenly fell sick.
“I had a wicked headache. I had the worst headache of my life. I knew something was up,” O’Donoghue said.
Seconds later he passed out and was soon being rushed to the hospital, where he underwent a full work up, something that in years past wasn’t always done .
“The same kinds of headaches, 20, 30 years ago they were not investigated properly and people ended up having aneurysm ruptures,” said Dr. Celso Agner, an interventional radiologist with Broward Health
Agner said there are several factors that can affect the formation of a brain aneurysm, which he describes as ‘blisters’ on the blood vessels.
“Some of those are behavior problems such as smoking, blood pressure problems, the stress we have, pollution, all kinds of situations that will increase the risk of an aneurysm formation,” Agner said.
There are non-invasive ways of detecting an aneurysm and determining if patients are at risk for rupture. It would lead to a variety of treatment options involving clips or coils to close off the aneurysm, and possibly stents to divert the flow to the aneurysm.
“We’re looking more into the flow within the arteries, the size of the arteries and the characteristic of the aneurysm, so even if you have a small aneurysm that looks unstable that has multiple blisters and multiple lobes that can increase the chance of a rupture. Those are more principals for treatment,” Agner said.
O’Donoghue was hospitalized for six weeks, then faced another three weeks of inpatient rehabilitation.
Its been a journey to get him back to doing what he loves.
“I’m not as up to where I was, I’m not playing as well obviously, but I’m playing well enough to know I’ll be back to this game,” O’Donoghue said.
Smoking increases the risk of an aneurysm, so quitting is a clear benefit.
Some blood pressure medications may decrease the risk of aneurysm in people with hypertension.