Clinical Trials at TMH Bring New Hope to Brain Aneurysm Patients

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By: Abby Walton
April 27, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- No one knows how long 62-year old Ligia Moreno was walking around with a brain aneurysm. Doctors found it almost two years ago after she'd been experiencing some short, intense headaches.

Ligia was given two treatment options. The first involved cutting open her skull. The second was to take part in a clinical trial at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

Both of Ligia’s choices involved risk, especially since her type of aneurysm can be more difficult to treat. But in January of this year, she decided to take a leap of faith.

“I’m putting it into God’s hands,” Ligia said.

TMH and Ligia allowed WCTV to sit in on her surgery. Her goal, of taking part in this trial, is not only to heal herself, but hopefully, others like her in the future.

The trial, called the Barrel Study, is evaluating a new type of stent. Doctors are looking to see if it can help treat specific brain aneurysms like Ligia’s, the wide-necked bi-furcation aneurysm.

TMH endovascular neurosurgeon Dr. Matthew Lawson is one of the doctors heading up the trial.

"I try to make sure that the patients understand that we don't know if this is a better way." Dr. Lawson said.

One thing Ligia and her doctors do know is that this option is less invasive. Instead of cutting open her skull, a tiny incision is made near the groin area. Dr. Lawson then threads tiny catheters to her brain. Those are used to place the stent. Then, he packs the aneurysm with platinum coils, sealing it off to prevent bleeding.

"Wide-neck aneurysms, in general, are difficult to treat because the coils that we put into the aneurysm have a tendency to sort of fall out or cause compromise to part of the parent blood vessel and that could cause a stroke,” Dr. Lawson said.

However, the barrel device is shaped differently. Since the device is not FDA approved, MedTronic, the maker of the device, and the company, running the trial, would not let TMH show WCTV the barrel stent. The trial will see if this device can keep the coils in place.

"We really don't know if this device is safe and that's the whole point of the trial," Dr. Lawson said.

Ligia’s surgery lasted about three hours. At the time, she’s just the second person in the Florida Panhandle to undergo this procedure.

30 days later, WCTV met up with Ligia and Dr. Lawson again at her follow-up appointment.

“I’m feeling perfect,” Ligia said.

It’s something she now admits she worried about before the surgery.

"When I wake up, maybe I can't recognize my daughter, my granddaughter,” Ligia said.

But now, those fears are gone.

"It's incredible. I'm thinking that procedure is like a miracle," Ligia said.

Since Ligia’s surgery, a third surgery has taken place at TMH. WCTV is told the other two patients are also doing very well.

TMH is one of 28 sites participating in this trial.

Each patient will be followed for a year. After that, doctors will work to have their findings published in a medical journal. The end goal is to make the barrel stent an FDA approved device.

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