Ela, the patient, after the surgery. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: In what is being hailed as timely, life-saving surgery, surgeons at Al Zahra Hospital, Dubai, quickly diagnosed a lethal ruptured brain aneurysm in a patient who had complained of a headache. Within 20 minutes she was rushed for what turned out to be a life-saving surgery.

Ela, the 41-year-old Filipina expatriate, came to the hospital’s Emergency section a day before New Year’s eve, complaining of a thunderclap headache that had rendered her unconscious. Doctors at the Emergency unit quickly assessed her and sent her for a CT scan within 20 minutes of her arrival.

“The CT scan revealed a subarachnoid haemorrhage (brain bleeding) and we rushed the patient for a CT angiogram,” said Dr Amr Kabakebji, Interventional Radiologist at Al Zahra Hospital, Dubai. “The angiogram showed what we call a basilar tip ruptured aneurysm, which is a bulge in a blood vessel in the brain that had burst. We immediately began the coiling procedure,” added Dr. Kabakebji.

Endovascular or Aneurysm Coiling is a minimally invasive but complex procedure used to block the blood flow to an aneurysm by placing a stent through an artery in the brain. Al Zahra Hospital Dubai is one of only three hospitals in the UAE that can perform this intricate procedure. In the case of Ela, the time taken from the initial investigations to completing the life-saving procedure was under an hour-and-a-half. Internationally, this is considered exceptionally swift timing, given that most health-care providers worldwide exceed this limit significantly.

High death-rate in ruptured brain aneurysm

“Ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in about 50 per cent of cases, with 15 per cent losing their lives even before reaching the hospital. Of those who survive, approximately 66 per cent suffer permanent neurological deficits. The key to a patient making a full recovery in such cases is timeliness and teamwork. This is one of the many cases at Al Zahra Hospital that we are extremely proud of,” said Dr Hussain AlRahma, Director of Emergency Services, Al Zahra Hospital Dubai.

Patient had another setback

After a few days of progressive recovery, the patient had a major setback by developing a left sigmoid sinus thrombosis (a blood clot) — a rare complication emerging from the stent placed in the artery to stop the aneurysm’s blood flow. “We treated the complication with blood thinners that worked effectively since the aneurysm was completely blocked. This treatment made the blood clot melt away,” said Dr Mona Thakre, Consultant Neurologist at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai.

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It was nothing short of a miracle

Ela, the patient who has since recovered fully, commended the doctors for their swift intervention. “I remember being rushed to the Emergency room and being very scared. After that, everything went dark. I woke up in the Intensive Care Unit at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, not knowing where I was. It is a miracle that I made a full recovery. These doctors have saved my life — the only reason why I am here today, speaking to you,” said Ela who was discharged from hospital within two weeks of the surgery.