For Clara Navarrete, a simple walk with her daughter is something she thought she might never do again. A year ago at 34, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke when an aneurysm in her brain burst.
"When I was taking a shower I said, 'What's happening to me? This is too painful; it's not a regular headache,'" Navarrete recalled.
Even so, she had no idea she was having a stroke.
"She was smart enough to know something was wrong and seek help. Many patients don't and unfortunately have a worse outcome," Dr. Arash Padidar said.
Padidar is a neurointerventional radiologist at Regional Medical Center in San Jose specializing in the treatment of stroke and aneurysms. Advanced computer imaging has revolutionized how they're treated.
"An aneurysm is simply like a bubble gum we blow up or the side of a tire that goes bad, and it had burst. The conventional treatment of that would be open brain surgery, where we would remove the skull, move the brain out of the way and basically identify an aneurysm and place a staple at the bottom of it," Padidar said.
But complex 3D imaging of the brain now allows doctors to find and treat aneurysms without open-brain surgery, instead inserting a very thin catheter in the groin, equipped with a slinky-like metal coil the thickness of a thread.
"We can travel these catheters to the brain and thenj put little slinky coils inside the aneurysm to fill the aneurysm," Padidar explained.
A complex case involving two aneurysms and a blood vessel requiring a stent can now be done with a single catheter.
"Surgically this could not be treated this way and this would probably be a 24 hour surgery," Padidar said.
So how long did it take to do it this way?
"This was a 2 hour procedure," Padidar said. "And then the patient went to the ICU."
The care then continues in the ICU for the next couple of weeks using sophisticated monitoring and neurointerventional options when needed
"These aneurysms can cause other issues, because of all the blood there-- more strokes, infections, heart attacks, and so forth," Padidar said.
Navarrete suffered no lasting effects from her stroke, returning home days in the hospital with a new appreciation for the life she almost lost, and the doctor who helped save her.