June 20, 2013 – Surgeons at The University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri saved a three-week-old baby girl's life with the help of a very common household item: super glue.
Baby Ashlyn Julian seemed healthy until she suffered a seizure earlier in the month and started throwing up and screaming and crying all the time. Her concerned parents took her to the hospital. Tests showed that Ashlyn has an aneurysm in the middle of her brain.
An aneurysm is the name for when part of the wall of a vein or artery in the brain balloons out like a bubble. They are more common in adults who have high blood pressure or have had an injury to their head. The expanded part of the blood vessel wall is very weak and, if it breaks, which Ashlyn's did, it will leak blood into the rest of the brain, which can be deadly if not treated fast enough.
To save Ashlyn's life doctors had to block the leak in the blood vessel, but all of the tools they had for fixing an aneurysm were too large to use on a three-week-old baby. So surgeons decided to use surgical super glue, which is the same thing as regular super glue!
The surgeons put a tiny catheter (a tiny thin tube) in an artery in her leg and fished it all the way up to her brain. Then they dabbed the tip of a wire the size of a strand of hair in super glue and had to thread it all the way up to her brain in 10 seconds and tapped the glue on the affected blood vessel.
"You only are allowing yourself literally a few seconds. The people who don't allow themselves that (time) glue the catheter to the brain. And that's not something anybody is proud of," said Dr. Alan Reeves, who helped Dr. Koji Ebersole with the procedure. "That's something Dr. Ebersole was hyper-aware of as the glue was being pushed through the catheter: the exact amount of working time that's afforded with glue. You have a very short window."
Time will turn the glue into a scar and the rest will eventually dissolve while keeping the blood vessel sealed. It's too early to say for sure but the surgeons think she will go on to live a normal life.
While super glue has been used in aneurysms in adult brains before, this procedure marks the first time that it was used to treat an aneurysm in an infant less than one month old.