Superglue surgery saves infant

Team of doctors use glue to stop little girl's brain bleeding in an operation so rare it may never be done again

Ashlyn Julian after rare brain surgery saved her life. Photo / Supplied
Ashlyn Julian after rare brain surgery saved her life. Photo / Supplied

Surgery and superglue have saved three-week-old Ashlyn Julian's life.

The little girl had a rare, life-threatening condition in infants and doctors at University of Kansas Hospital needed to stop bleeding in her brain.

Surgical superglue was the answer.

Doctors, led by pediatric neurosurgeon Koji Ebersole, believe fewer than 20 procedures similar to that which saved Ashlyn's life, were documented in medical literature.

The procedure was so rare it may be the first time superglue had been used to repair an aneurysm in an infant's brain.

Yesterday her parents wiped away tears and thanked Ebersole.

"I can't express how incredibly lucky and graced we are," said Ashlyn's mother, Gina Julian.

Ashlyn was born without complications on May 16.

She was released to go home to Olathe but it was soon clear something was wrong. She was tired and vomiting and it became clear the problem was serious, Gina Julian said.

A scan revealed an aneurysm the size of an olive.

Brain aneurysms in children were extremely rare because they typically developed over many years, Ebersole said. Doctors did not know why aneurysms happened, and Ebersole says they may never know why it happened to Ashlyn.

Because brain bleeding was so rare in infants, there were no pediatric tools for the procedure and doctors had to use small adult equipment.

Surgery to repair the aneurysm began on Thursday after Ashlyn experienced a second traumatic hemorrhage.

Surgeons 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 into her neck.

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

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

The most common treatment for a brain aneurysm is to open a patient's skull and operate on the aneurysm.

But because Ashlyn was so young, the blood loss involved in open surgery would have put her at considerable risk, Ebersole said. The procedure took less than 45 minutes.

Jill Chadwick, from the University of Kansas Medical Center, said the procedure was so rare Ebersole would probably never do it again.

- AAP

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