NEWS | April 27, 2020

Visit to dentist leads to lifesaving repair of soon-to-rupture aneurysm

(SACRAMENTO)

When Joseph Peterson decided to have a dental implant back in 2016, the 64-year old engineer never expected it would lead to major brain surgery.

Joe Peterson, who had open brain surgery to repair an aneurysm during the pandemic, is doing well and getting back into his usual routine at home. Joe Peterson, who had open brain surgery to repair an aneurysm during the pandemic, is doing well and getting back into his usual routine at home.

But the conical X-ray image of his skull at the dental office years ago revealed a suspicious cloudy area in his brain. A subsequent MRI with contrast showed an aneurysm that needed immediate treatment then -- and would need regular monitoring for years to come.

An aneurysm is a thinning or weak spot on an artery in the brain that balloons or bulges as it fills with blood. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately 30,000 Americans each year suffer a brain aneurysm that ruptures, which can be life-threatening.

“It was only a matter of time before it popped,” the Folsom resident said, grateful for the unexpected diagnosis.

Peterson’s primary care physician referred him to UC Davis Medical Center‘s interventional radiology team, where he had a minimally invasive procedure to insert spirals of platinum wire, which reduce the flow of blood into the weak blood vessel.

Knowing that more than one of these procedures might be needed during a person’s lifetime, Peterson wasn’t all that surprised when a routine follow-up MRI at UC Davis Medical Center last month showed his aneurysm had indeed recurred. Having had the endovascular coiling treatment twice before already, more aggressive treatment was needed.

“It was growing right before our very eyes,” Peterson recalled his neurosurgeon, Ben Waldau, telling him.

Two weeks later, Waldau, a UC Davis associate professor of neurosurgery who specializes in treating cerebral aneurysms, performed open brain surgery. He placed a metal clip on the aneurysm neck to cut off the flow of blood to the aneurysm. After a few days in the hospital, Peterson was back at home

“I have minimal scarring and nothing but praise for UC Davis, from the surgical admissions staff, SICU1 nurses and the surgeons,” Peterson said.  “Everyone was fabulous.”