Researchers in Minneapolis are conducting a first-of-its-kind study in this country in the hopes that understanding a type of stroke caused by aneurysms could yield a life-saving prevention strategy.
Every year, 30,000 Americans suffer a ruptured aneurysm, and though 60 percent survive, many are at risk of fatal or debilitating strokes. Now, Dr. Yasha Kadkhodayan is trying to prevent those strokes from happening.
"When the artery is narrowed to this degree, the patient is at high risk for strokes," Kadkhodayan, a neuroradiologist at Abbot Northwestern Hospital, explained.
Kadkhodayan knows what can cause the strokes, and is now starting up research with the goal of finding a way to stop "vasospasms," which create a lack of blood flow to the brain.
Between 30 and 40 percent of patients who suffer ruptured aneurysms also endure vasospasms that can result in devastating strokes.
"If we can help just a few patients every year to overcome those odds, that makes all the difference," Kadkhodayan said.
Currently, the only prevention method is neurological monitoring and ultrasounds.
"They are great tools at suggesting the presence of vasospasms; they are not good at detecting if the vasospasm is significant enough to cause a stroke," Kadkhodayan critiqued.
At 22, Annie Stroh suffered not one, but two strokes after her initial aneurysm. Her vasospasm set in 5 days after the aneurysm ruptured.
"I couldn't remember things," Stroh said of the effects. "I had no emotion for a long time. I was very flat."
Five years later, Stroh has recovered and now has a family that feels lucky she is alive. When asked about Kadkhodayan's research, they hope new brain maps might be able to help others.
"I really hope they have better technology -- other than the ultrasound -- to track them well before they happen and even prevent them from happening at all," Stroh said.
Kadkhodayan plans to use new MRI technology in the groundbreaking study in order to map out the brain and monitor blood flow.
"This new method will help us detect vasospasms and determine whether the vasospasm we see is significant enough to cause a stroke," Kadkhodayan predicted.
The 2-year study just began, and it is expected to include 50 patients who will undergo up to 4 MRI scans -- the first when they arrive at the hospital, one 7 days later, the next at 30 days and a fourth if symptoms start to appear.
The study is funded by the Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation.