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Procedure Is A ‘Game Changer’ For Treating Aneurysms

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An image of a brain aneurysm (credit: CBS)

An image of a brain aneurysm (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – A chance discovery led to a lifesaving procedure for a woman from Grand Junction. She’s among the first to undergo a new treatment for brain aneurysms.

Swedish Medical Center is the only place in Colorado where the procedure is taking place. Doctors there are call it a game changer.

“I’ve never had a thing wrong with me. I’m blissfully healthy; very active,” Donna Patton said.

Patton says she’s the luckiest woman alive, and to hear her story, it’s hard not to believe her. In July she was in a car wreck and suffered a closed head injury, requiring a CAT scan — a scan that would uncover a virtual time bomb in her head.

“My neurosurgeon over there was like, ‘So what. You have a concussion, that’s nothing. Let me tell you what we really found,” Patton said.

The scan showed a brain aneurysm in her carotid artery. The blood vessel had become weak and ballooned, stretching the wall so that it was in danger of rupturing.

“Options were to cut my head open, take a piece of my skull out, take a piece of bone out because of location of aneurysm,” Patton said. “I said, ‘No way is that happening.’ “

But if it ruptured she would likely die.

“The larger the aneurysm gets, the higher the risk of rupture, and this was a large aneurysm,” Dr. Donald Frei said.

Frei at Swedish Medical Center is the first in the Rocky Mountain region to perform a cutting edge procedure just approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Through a small opening in the groin Frei threaded a catheter into Patton’s artery and inserted a stint in front of the aneurysm.

“The goal is to put the stent across the opening so blood just diverts past it and not into it and the aneurysm seals off,” Frei said. “It’s a complete game changer in my mind and will revolutionize the way we treat brain aneurysms.”

It gave patients like Patton a second chance.

“Our oldest daughter says, ‘You know, God is not finished laughing with you,” Patton said.

Frei says one to two percent of all people have brain aneurysms and most have no symptoms.

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