Brain Aneurysm Treatment: Flow Diversion

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CT image of a stent placed in an artery in the brain.

Brain aneurysm treatments have improved significantly over the past few decades. In the past, doctors performed an intensive open surgery on all patients needing brain aneurysm treatment. Today, Johns Hopkins doctors use a less invasive approach, called endovascular surgery, 75 percent of the time. 

As doctors continue to fine-tune microsurgical and endovascular techniques in neurosurgery, they can better match patients with the right treatments for their circumstances. Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Rafael Tamargo, M.D., discusses an endovascular technique that’s particularly exciting.

Flow Diversion: How It Works

In flow diversion, doctors do not need to operate on the aneurysm itself. For this procedure, doctors:

  1. Use advanced imaging technology and radioactive contrast dye to see your blood vessels clearly.
  2. Guide a catheter through your blood vessels until they reach the site of the aneurysm.
  3. Carefully place a tiny, sophisticated device, called a stent, in the parent blood vessel of the aneurysm, where the aneurysm formed. This diverts blood flow away from the aneurysm itself, ensuring it’s no longer a danger to you.

Embolization Device for Brain Aneurysms

An embolization device is an intricate stent that is made up of metal and other materials and carefully woven into a cylindrical shape.

The stents consist of 48 strands of a mix of metals, including platinum and chromium. The stents are designed with the precise amount and types of metals in order to effectively and safely treat aneurysms.

Benefits of Flow Diversion for Brain Aneurysms

The flow diversion method is frequently used to treat aneurysms at Johns Hopkins. Benefits include:

  • Increased safety: This treatment method eliminates the need for doctors to enter the aneurysm itself — which is often the riskiest part of an endovascular approach.
  • Shorter recovery: Many patients who once needed extensive surgery can now undergo this procedure and go home the next day. Some patients return to work within a week.
  • Less recurrence: This technique appears to reduce the recurrence rate (the chance a patient will develop another aneurysm).
  • Less radiation exposure: In this procedure, patients receive a much lower radiation dose than with other endovascular techniques.
  • Lower costs: This surgery costs less than other endovascular treatment approaches.

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