Survivor, doctors express importance of knowing brain aneurysm signs

Survivor, doctors express importance of knowing brain aneurysm signs

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's a potentially lethal condition if left untreated and you may not even know it's there.

Cerebral aneurysms are fatal in 40 percent of cases, and for some people, the onset of symptoms may not seem as severe as they actually are.

September is Brain Aneurysm Awareness month, and local physicians and survivors want you to know the signs and the risks.

A cerebral aneurysm is a bulging in the wall of a blood vessel in the brain. The symptoms can range from a drooping eyelid to numbness. If an aneurysm ruptures, it's fatal 40 percent of the time.

Mary Pat Baldauf suffered a ruptured aneurysm in March 2015. She describes the sensation like a lightning bolt down the center of her head, but she thought maybe she had just had too much caffeine, so she went to bed.

The next morning, her sister found her on the floor, unconscious.

She says she didn't even know she had suffered an aneurysm for a full month as she recovered in the hospital. She got back to work full time in October 2015, after months of recovery. Baldauf said she still deals with deficits and gets fatigued easily. 

Baldauf says her case is a lucky one, so she -- and the physicians at Palmetto Health Richland -- want to stress that erring on the side of caution, is the best option when it comes to potential brain aneurysms.


"If you ever feel like something's wrong, go to the hospital," Baldauf said. "Don't go like me and go back to bed. I think it's important that people know the signs. I was just, I had no idea."

"When someone has a symptom from an aneurysm, they'll know something is wrong though I can understand that some people may say, 'It's just a severe headache' from caffeine or what have you," said Dr. Roham Moftakhar, chief of neurosurgery for Palmetto Health Richland. "But, what I advise is if there is a symptom, definitely go to the hospital, and if it's severe, call 911 immediately."

Treatment for many aneurysms can be done with minimally invasive procedures to either insert a coil to "plug" the bubble, or, in some cases doctors will clip it.

Risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, and family history of aneurysms.

If you or someone you love has been affected by a brain aneurysm or AVM -- arteriovenous malformation -- The Joe Niekro Foundation holds a monthly support group meeting - every third Thursday - at Palmetto Health for affected people to support one another and share their stories. The next meeting is Oct. 20 from 6-8 p.m. at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital, Derrick Room, 7 Richland Medical Park Drive.

For more information, please contact Mary Pat Baldauf.

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