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Fremont Man Receives Life-Saving Brain Surgery at Washington Hospital

July 23, 2014

Charles Kiyasu woke up the morning of April 24 with a headache. He didn’t feel well, so he decided to work at home. After a day of losing track of time, he suffered a seizure. Kiyasu was finally able to call 911 and was taken to Washington Hospital, where he received life-saving surgery.

“I had no energy and I was slightly dizzy,” said Kiyasu, an engineering program manager at Yahoo. “I tried to work, but I couldn’t remember my passwords. I lost track of time. When the aneurysm hit, I didn’t know what it was. It felt like a surge of heat and vertigo. I was drenched in sweat.”

He collapsed on the stairs in his home, but when he regained consciousness he didn’t know what had happened. He thought he had fallen down the stairs.

Kiyasu was diagnosed with a ruptured brain aneurysm. An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge on the side of the artery wall. The artery carries blood, and pressure on the wall can cause the bulge to rupture, allowing blood to burst out of the vessel into the head’s natural fluid spaces inside and surrounding the brain. When blood flows into the brain’s fluid spaces, it can cause severe brain damage and death.

Washington Hospital provides the most advanced care available today for brain aneurysms. Kiyasu’s brain surgery was performed without cutting into his skull. Instead, it was conducted through a small incision in his thigh.

Minimally Invasive Technique

Kiyasu underwent minimally invasive brain surgery to repair his aneurysm. Two months later, he is recovering well.

When he first arrived at Washington Hospital’s emergency department, Kiyasu was seriously ill. He was treated by a team of specialists who stabilized him before he went to surgery.

“Patients with a ruptured aneurysm are facing serious neurological issues,” said Dr. Jack Rose, a neurointensivist who leads the neurocritical care team at Washington Hospital. “They need a team of experts to ensure they are properly diagnosed and treated so they can be prepared and taken to surgery as soon as possible.”

Dr. Jeffrey Thomas, a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon and the medical director of Interventional Neuroradiology at Washington Hospital, determined that Kiyasu was a good candidate for a minimally invasive procedure called coiling.

The newer coiling technique uses a tiny microcatheter that is introduced into the leg and guided through a series of blood vessels into the chest, through the aorta, and into the head and brain, he said. A soft platinum wire is pushed through the microcatheter and into the aneurysm. The wire coils up inside the aneurysm, stops the blood flow, and causes the blood to clot.

Clipping is the traditional surgical treatment. The neurosurgeon removes part of the skull, locates the blood vessel that feeds the aneurysm, and places a titanium clip on the neck of the aneurysm.

Dr. Thomas is one of only a few surgeons in California who can perform both the coil and clipping methods to treat a ruptured brain aneurysm. He is one of only about 120 neurosurgeons in the United States with dual expertise in microscopic brain surgery and interventional neuroradiology.

In the Right Hands

“I realize now that I was so fortunate to be taken to Washington Hospital,” said Kiyasu, who lives in Fremont. “The care I received was amazing. The whole time I knew I was in the right hands.”

After a successful operation, Kiyasu stayed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for about two weeks under the care of Dr. Rose and his team. With a ruptured brain aneurysm, the initial rupture can continue to damage the brain even after it is repaired, so patients must receive specialized care for at least two weeks after the surgery – longer if serious complications occur.

“My vitals were all out of whack,” said Kiyasu, who spent a total of three weeks in the hospital. “But after Dr. Rose got those under control I started to recover.”

Kiyasu said he had a difficult time walking again after being immobile for so long. He had a hard time catching his breath and experienced a lot of pain in his head, neck and chest at first. But he was able to get off his pain medications quickly, which was a major goal for him.

“I have recovered fairly well physically and my stamina is coming back,” he said. “Now I’m trying to reboot the psychological side. For example, I can manage a one-on-one conversation, but I have trouble in a group setting. It’s like sensory overload to be with too many people at once.”

Right now he is on a medical leave from work, but is looking forward to the day he can return.

“I’m inquisitive by nature, and I want to get back to that,” he said.

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