Traditional methods of treating a ruptured brain aneurysm usually involve pretty invasive techniques, such as removing a piece of a patients skull, but surgeons at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have found a new way to stop the bleeding – and they do it by going right through the nose.

In a new report, set to be published in the March 2011 edition of the journal Neurosurgery, Dr. Anand V. Germanwala and Dr. Adam M. Zanation describe a case involving Alfreda Cordero, who was the first person to undergo this innovative surgery.

“It really pushes the entire field forward,” Zanation said in a news release. “This isn’t going to change all aneurysm treatment tomorrow, but it gets the ball rolling so we may provide an additional option to future aneurysm treatment.”

Instead of doing open brain surgery or endovascular coiling, which involves snaking a catheter through the groin up to the brain to stop the bleeding – surgeons opted to thread their tiny equipment through Corderos’ nose to reach the two aneurysms, which were located right behind her nasal cavity. The new approach is called “clipping the aneurysms through the nose.”

“It’s taking the best from the coiling procedure, because it’s minimally invasive, and taking the best from the clipping procedure, because it’s more permanent — and putting them together,” Germanwala said in the news release. “We’ve proved that it can be done safely, it can be done effectively, and we can treat multiple aneurysms. It is something we can certainly consider in the future.”

Two years later, Cordero is healthy, and the surgeons consider the procedure a great success.
“Her recovery was remarkable,” Germanwala added.

A brain aneurysm occurs when there is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic, and it often looks like “a berry hanging on a stem.”

And while most brain aneurysms don’t rupture or create health problems, when one does, it can turn deadly very quickly.

As for surgery through the nose, the surgical team has used a similar technique to treat brain tumors, but never for a ruptured aneurysm.

Click here to read more about the procedure.