A Dye Job For Your Brain
November 30, 2013

A Dye Job For Your Brain

How would you feel about having your brain dyed?

Sound strange? How about if it could save your life?

Thanks to a rare and relatively new idea, Eric Wagner will be able to enjoy this holiday season with his family because he got his brain dyed. Back in March, Mr. Wagner was discovered to have a ruptured aneurysm, a leaking blood blister that was leaking blood into his brain, causing him to have a stroke. Fortunately, the doctors were able to treat his aneurysm in time and potentially save his life. In October, when Mr. Wagner returned for a follow-up on his procedure, it was discovered that the blister had formed again. This is unfortunately common for the type of aneurysm that Mr. Wagner suffered, but the really unfortunate thing was that his aneurysm is located in the part of his brain that controls his speech and movement for the right half of his body. If he were to have a stroke, it could lead to him not being able to speak, or potentially not even be able to understand spoken word at all.

It was decided that Mr. Wagner would undergo a brain bypass. A brain bypass works much in the same way that a heart bypass does. A healthy blood vessel is taken from another part of Mr. Wagner’s scalp and then put in to allow blood to flow around the weakened area. This is harder than it sounds – and admittedly, this already sounds incredibly hard – because finding the exact artery that is causing the problem is like finding a broken needle in a pile of needles. The brain is covered in several different blood vessels that, in total, can stretch over 400 miles in length if put end to end. This makes finding the right vessel a huge ordeal, but one that must be overcome if a brain bypass is to be a success.

What the doctors decided to do in order to defeat this problem was absolute genius. They dyed his brain. Not entirely, of course. Only a part of it. The part that needed bypassed, to be exact. By placing a micro-catheter into the aneurysm and injecting a fluorescent dye, one usually used in eye operations to light up the correct vessel, they caused the damaged vessel they were looking for to light up brightly while leaving all the other vessels dark. This acted as a sort-of road map for the surgeons to follow as they went in and successfully performed the operation. This sort of procedure is incredibly rare, as there are only a few hospitals with the necessary equipment able to perform such an operation and even fewer doctors with the right qualifications for the job. Mr. Wagner was fortunate that he found himself in the right hospital with the right doctors on hand to make his treatment a success.

So there you have it. Having your brain dyed could end up saving your life. This Thanksgiving, when many of us will be gathering with friends and family to give thanks for all we have, I am sure that Mr. Wagner will be thankful for the doctors that helped give him this chance to be with his family in the first place. Technology can be a wonderful thing, and hearing stories like this one are just the sort of thing that continually give me hope that we are working towards a better and brighter future.

One that apparently involves giving our brains the occasional dye-job.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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