Medical Breakthroughs: Onyx for Aneurysms

BACKGROUND: An aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of a blood vessel. It often resembles a sack of blood attached to one side of the vessel.

Symptoms of an aneurysm usually do not appear until complications develop. They can include: hemorrhaging, weakness, numbness or other loss of nerve function.

Traditional treatment for a brain aneurysm is cranial surgery where the vessel is clipped or coil embolization where a coil is inserted through a catheter in the groin to the area where bleeding can then be controlled.

NEW PROCEDURE: Onyx is a liquid material that can be transferred to the site behind a balloon, through a catheter in the groin. Once in place, the liquid material quickly transforms into a spongy polymer mass that is designed to keep blood flow out of the aneurysm.

A national study is currently examining onyx as a more complete cure for aneurysm. Researchers say it may significantly reduce the risk of bleeding and provide a longer lasting treatment than currently available methods. The recurrence rate of aneurysms is also being studied.

The procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis under general anesthesia. It takes about two hours with usually a two-day recovery period.

RESULTS: In studies so far, onyx appears to work best for side wall aneurysms and especially well with wide-neck, large and giant aneurysms for which current treatments are not always effective.

Interventional Neuroradiologist Robert Dawson, M.D., of the Culicchia Neurological Clinic in New Orleans, says, "I don't think onyx is going to be suitable for every aneurysm but I think it has potential in our trial to be a significant breakthrough in that it will allow us to successfully treat aneurysms that we couldn't have treated before."

DRAWBACKS: Dr. Dawson says the primary drawback of the procedure is the complex delivery of the balloon. This involves two catheters in the carotid artery and two microcatheters in the brain, which are all needed to deliver the material.

STUDY SITES: The twenty-one study sites are:

  • Beth Israel Medical Center - New York City, NY
  • Duke University - Durham, NC
  • Cleveland Clinic - Cleveland, OH
  • West Jefferson Medical Center - Marrero, LA
  • Massachusetts General Hospital- Boston, MA
  • Washington University - St. Louis, MO
  • Georgetown University - Washington, DC
  • Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD
  • Methodist Hospital - Houston, TX
  • Radcliffe Infirmary - United Kingdom
  • Abbott Northwestern Hospital- Minneapolis, MN
  • UT Southwestern Medical Center - Dallas, TX
  • Kaleida Health/ Millard Fillmore - Buffalo, NY
  • Loyola University - Maywood, IL
  • University of Iowa - Iowa City
  • University of Arkansas - Little Rock, AR
  • Jefferson Medical College - Philadelphia, PA
  • Baptist Memorial Hospital - Memphis, TN
  • Barrow Neurological Institute - Phoenix, AZ
  • University of Florida - Gainesville, FL
  • Tucson Medical Center - Tucson, AZ


Wanda Berry, R.N.
Clinical Study Coordinator
Culicchia Neurological Clinic
1111 Medical Center Blvd., Suite South 750
Marrero, Louisiana 70072
(504) 349-6976

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