Rare combination of specialized treatments helped Clear Lake man survive
life-threatening brain hemorrhage
John Carr may be a retired teacher, but his life is anything but sedentary.
He can often be found working around the multi-acre property in Clear
Lake where he and his wife Vicki live. He clears leaves and debris, chops
firewood using a log splitter, works on the couple’s sail boat and
does a myriad of other projects to maintain his home while enjoying the
Not long ago, John strode around his acreage with a new appreciation for
life and his good fortune. The reason? Just three weeks before, he had
been struck by an event that could have left him seriously disabled or
even dead. Without warning, a tiny bulge in the wall of an artery in his
head had burst and began leaking blood into his brain. John had suffered
a ruptured cerebral aneurysm.
He was rushed to the local community hospital where the emergency department
physician recognized the seriousness and urgency of his condition. But,
as with many small, local hospitals, the life-saving treatment John needed
was not available in his community.
Fortunately, the doctor knew about Washington Hospital’s highly sophisticated
Neurovascular program with physicians specially trained to give John the
advanced treatment he needed. Thanks to emergency medical transport services,
these services were only a short helicopter flight away.
As an independent, district hospital serving southern Alameda County since
1958, Washington Hospital works to give Tri-City residents local access
to leading edge medical care. Advanced services, like the Hospital’s
Neurovascular program, are usually only located at large teaching institutions
in the U.S. and are rarely found at community hospitals.
“We are building a Cerebrovascular Center of Excellence at Washington
Hospital, and are working to make world-class care and treatment readily
available to local residents when they need it,” said the Neurovascular
program’s Medical Director Jeffrey Thomas, MD, FACS. Dr. Thomas
is a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon and neurointerventionalist.
“Since these services are not available in most communities across
the country, we knew we would also have the opportunity to treat people
like John, who come from other areas,” he continued. Dr. Thomas
led the highly trained medical team that performed John’s surgery.
There is another reason John was fortunate to come to Washington Hospital.
The optimal treatment for his type of cerebral aneurysm required two separate
surgeries. Dr. Thomas is one of only a few cerebrovascular neurosurgeons
in the country who can perform both. This combination of two different
procedures performed on the same day to treat a ruptured cerebral aneurysm
successfully is exceptionally rare. It required 11 hours of surgery.
First, Dr. Thomas performed a procedure called coiling. This is a minimally
invasive treatment that requires the surgeon to guide a tiny catheter
through a small cut in the patient’s groin on a long, tortuous journey
through the arterial system to the location of the aneurysm in the brain.
Then, thin metal wires are placed into the aneurysm, forming a mesh ball
that causes the blood to clot and stop leaking. John’s aneurysm
met certain criteria about shape and location that made it a good candidate
for the coiling procedure, but other features prevented its complete elimination by coils.
So, right after the coiling procedure, with John still under general anesthesia,
Dr. Thomas performed a separate surgery called clipping. For this procedure,
the patient’s scalp, skull and coverings of the brain are opened,
and the surgeon places a metal clip at the base of the aneurysm to prevent
the aneurysm breaking open again.
“Many surgeons perform only the coiling or the clipping procedure,”
explained Dr. Thomas. “By doing both procedures, we eliminated the
aneurysm entirely. Doing the coiling first also helped to avoid the risk
of another rupture occurring during the clipping procedure.”
After surgery, John remained in the Hospital under the care of neurointensive
care and cerebrovascular disease expert Jack Rose, MD, and his team of
specialized nurses and other medical professionals. After a ruptured cerebral
aneurysm is repaired, the patient continues to be in danger from the effects
of the hemorrhage for the next several weeks. The Neurocritical care unit
at Washington Hospital provides intensive, round-the-clock care to help
patients get through the first critical weeks after surgery.
“Mr. Carr is an excellent example of what the Neurovascular program
at Washington Hospital is all about,” concluded Dr. Thomas. “We
are not focused on one technology or one type of procedure. Rather, we
are prepared and dedicated to doing the safest and most effective things
to ensure the well-being and survival of each individual patient.”
To learn more about the Neurovascular program at Washington Hospital,
visit www.whhs.com To learn more about Drs. Thomas and Rose, who are affiliated
with the Washington Township Medical Foundation, go to www.mywtmf.com.