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Special superglue halts life-threatening bleeding in Kansas baby's brain

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UNDATED: A premature infant in the NICU, is shown.iStock

Doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital have saved an infant with a rare, life-threatening condition by using surgical superglue.

The patient, 3-week-old Ashlyn Julian, of Olathe, had undergone an MRI that revealed an olive-size aneurysm that was causing bleeding in her brain.

Dr. Koji Ebersole, a neurosurgeon at the hospital, told The Kansas City Star such aneurysms are extremely rare in children because they typically develop over many years. No infant-size tools are made for treating the condition, so doctors must use the smallest adult equipment available.

But some kind of surgery was needed after Ashlyn had a traumatic hemorrhage last week.

Wary of the approach typically used for adult patients — opening the skull to operate on the aneurysm — Ebersole and a team of doctors from several area hospitals on Wednesday decided to repair Ashlyn's brain from the inside.

Surgeons first inserted a tiny catheter into a blood vessel in Ashlyn's right hip. From there, Ebersole navigated the catheter through Ashlyn's blood vessels and up into her neck.

Using a sophisticated brain imaging machine that shows the brain's highlighted blood vessels from two angles, Ebersole navigated a microcatheter through Ashlyn's brain and up next to the aneurysm itself.

There Ebersole was able to deposit the sterile, surgical superglue on the affected blood vessel. The glue dried in seconds and created an internal cast, sealing the blood vessel.

"It's literally the same compound as the superglue you'd find in the store," Ebersole said.

The procedure took less than 45 minutes to complete once the catheter was inserted.

Doctors at KU Hospital believe fewer than 20 procedures have been documented in medical literature similar to the one that saved Ashlyn's life. The procedure is so rare that this may be the first time superglue has been used to repair an aneurysm in an infant's brain.

By Friday, Ashlyn was recovering in a hospital room, trying to nap while outside the door her parents wiped away tears and thanked Ebersole.

"I can't express how incredibly lucky and graced we are," said Gina Julian, who gave birth to Ashlyn without complications May 16.

The next step for Ashlyn is to return to Children's Mercy Hospital, where the blood spilled by the aneurysm into the brain's spaces will continue to drain. In another six months, doctors will check on Ashlyn, but Ebersole says she will likely never have trouble with the aneurysm again.

"I think she's going to have a perfectly normal life," he said.

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