Brain & Spine
May is National Stroke Awareness Month
The terms ‘aneurysm’ and ‘stroke’ are sometimes used interchangeably. Factors such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, alcoholism, and diabetes can lead to aneurysm and stroke. Diagnosis includes a thorough medical exam as well as tests such as MRI and CAT scans. Additional diagnostic tools for stroke include carotid ultrasound, cerebral angiograms and echocardiograms.
Most Aneurysms Develop After Age 40
“An aneurysm occurs when the walls of an artery weaken and a bulge forms,” says Dr. Ciro G. Randazzo, a board-certified neurosurgeon and neuro-endovascular specialist. “If the aneurysm continues to grow, it can eventually burst, which can lead to severe and even fatal consequences (hemorrhagic stroke).”
Symptoms can vary depending on where the aneurysm is located, from pain and swelling in the abdomen to vision problems, slurred speech and severe headaches.
“Fortunately, state-of-the-art treatments exist that permanently seal the bulging blood vessel and redirect blood flow,” says Dr. Randazzo.
Stroke: A Leading Cause Of Long-Term Disability
“Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the US and a leading cause of disability,’ says Dr. Randazzo. “By understanding the risk factors and with proper diagnosis and treatment, most strokes can be avoided.”
Stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced. Stroke is a medical emergency. Treatments include the blood clot buster tPA, thrombectomy, and angioplasty procedures. “Fortunately, by partnering with comprehensive stroke centers throughout New Jersey, skilled stroke teams at local hospitals are helping New Jersey residents survive the devastating effects of stroke,” concludes Dr. Randazzo.
Spinal Disc Degeneration
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a condition that results from aging and normal wear and tear on the spinal discs, which act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae. “With age, the discs lose fluid, making them less flexible and more compressed,” says Pinakin R. Jethwa, MD, a board-certified neurosurgeon. “The discs can also develop tiny tears, which cause pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. The most common symptoms of DDD are deep lower back pain or neck pain, and stiffness.”
Smoking, obesity, heavy lifting and hereditary factors also lead to disc degeneration.
Artificial Spinal Disc Replacement
“Conservative therapies such as over-the-counter medications, physical therapy and injections are the first course of treatment,” says Dr. Jethwa. “When these no longer bring relief, it may be time to consider surgical intervention.”
“Spinal fusion or replacing the disc with a metal cage or other stabilizing materials were the conventional approaches to degenerative disc disease,” says Dr. Jethwa. “The gamechanger today is using a device that allows normal motion of the spine – bending, pivoting – to continue. Disc replacement patients can return to normal routines, such as playing tennis and picking up grandchildren.”
Spinal surgery is not a procedure to be taken lightly. Take the time to consult with a skilled spinal surgeon experienced in newer procedures such as artificial disc replacement.
Ciro G. Randazzo, MD, MPH, FAANS
Pinakin R. Jethwa, MD