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Health, Science & Tech

First-of-Its-Kind Study to Examine How Brain Aneurysms Work Through Tissue

In an effort to better understand brain aneurysms, researchers in Pittsburgh will examine aneurysm tissue to try and learn what determines whether an aneurysm ruptures or doesn’t.

“It’s common to see brain aneurysms, but uncommon to see a ruptured one,” said Dr. Khaled Aziz, director of the Center for Complex Intracranial Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital. “However, when the aneurysms rupture, 50 percent of the patients don’t survive the rupture. The other 50 percent survive. (Among) those survivors, half of them have a good recovery with functional outcome, the other half become disabled.”

Aziz has been awarded a two-year grant of $423,852 from the National Institute of Health for the study. He and his team at Allegheny General Hospital will dissect aneurysm vessel tissue samples from patients undergoing aneurysm repair at the hospital.

“Our final, ultimate goal is that when we see a brain aneurysm, before we do surgery, before we do any treatment we need to know if this aneurysm is liable to rupture — so we’d have to treat it as soon as we can, or is this aneurysm wall strong and very unlikely to rupture soon,” Aziz said.

The study will attempt to determine how brain blood vessel tissue becomes vulnerable to aneurysm development and if there is a link between blood flow and vessel wall structure and strength. Aziz said this will hopefully help improve the treatment of aneurysms.

“There are certain parameters we follow when we treat brain aneurysms,” he said. “We say, ‘well if they aneurysm is irregular in shape, it is weak and we have to treat it, if the aneurysm is a certain size we have to treat it,’ but nobody analyzed the aneurysm tissue itself before.”

Cerebral aneurysms are enlargements of cerebral artery walls. Their spontaneous ruptures are responsible for 80 percent of hemorrhagic strokes. The condition affects 5 to 8 percent of adults.