Debilitating Headaches Reduced After Treating Brain Aneurysm

By Katrina Dupins

Photos show Jeff and Fanny Long (left) and their daughters Stephanie and Christina.

Photos show Jeff and Fanny Long (left) and their daughters Stephanie and Christina.

“I would send my family off to travel without me,” Long said. “I just felt very constricted with worry over my health. I’d wonder, ‘What if I get a migraine? What if I have a stroke in the air? Will other doctors know how to treat my condition?’”

Her husband, University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, said it took a toll on the entire family.

“We went through a period where we were very concerned for her health. It was stressful and emotional,” he said.

Long is no stranger to migraines. She said she has always had an average of three or four a year and saw her neurologist in Fayetteville regularly. But in May 2014, the pain came almost daily for two months.

“My neurologist tried everything. Nothing seemed to help, so he referred me to the Cleveland Clinic,” Long said.

After a consultation there, Long went back to Fayetteville for further testing. There, the doctors found she had an aneurysm. She was then referred to the Department of Neurosurgery at UAMS, led by J.D. Day, M.D. 

“We never even considered another place and went to Little Rock the next day,” Long said. “We knew Dr. Day was an internationally known leader in cranial surgery, which is what I assumed we were having.”

A clinical examination and MRI showed that her aneurysm was located in her carotid artery at the base of her skull, which would have made brain surgery challenging. A team of neurosurgeons and interventional radiologists recommended a relatively new and minimally invasive procedure that involves placing a microscopic wire mesh tube across the aneurysm to stop the blood flow and decompress it.

“We discussed the options and decided that was the best way,” Long said. “I made an appointment with Dr. Amole who further explained the procedure. I felt completely at ease.”

Adewumi Amole, M.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of Radiology in the UAMS College of Medicine. He has been using the Pipeline Embolization Device since it was FDA-approved about four years ago.

To implant the device, Amole placed the catheter into an artery in her leg and threaded it to the carotid artery near the brain aneurysm. The device was then loaded into the microcatheter and placed across the aneurysm. This process diverts blood away from the aneurysm, which gradually shrinks and becomes completely blocked.

After the procedure, Amole prescribed a blood-thinning medication to prevent her immune system from attacking the mesh pipeline.

“She’ll take the medication for about one year,” Amole said. “After that, the pipeline would have grown into the vessel wall and become a part of the vessel itself.

Less than a year since her surgery, Long said a follow-up angiogram showed the aneurysm is gone.

“I’m living a normal life and not living around a headache all the time,” she said. Long still gets occasional headaches but they’re not as severe or as frequent as before. Amole said she can expect further improvement as the healing process continues.

Her husband smiles when he talks about his wife’s progress.

“Now that we’ve been through the procedure and the follow-up, she’s back to herself: a great wife and a great mother. I’ve told people many times, I’ve got my wife back.”