If you have been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, your doctor may suggest that you undergo an aneurysm coiling or an aneurysm clipping procedure. Both types of surgeries have their advantages. Depending on several factors, however, one approach may work better for you.
When you talk to your doctor about aneurysm coiling vs. clipping procedures, make sure you understand what each entails. Together, you and your doctor can make an informed decision that will contribute to your long-term health.
What Is Aneurysm Coiling?
Aneurysm coiling is a minimally invasive procedure that many neurosurgeons prefer because it has a relatively short recovery period. When you undergo the procedure, your neurosurgeon will make a small incision at the top of your thigh. This incision provides access to the femoral artery.
He or she will insert a microcatheter and wind it through your arterial system to reach the aneurysm in your brain. The surgeon will use fluoroscopy, a type of X-ray, to guide the microcatheter to the aneurysm without damaging your artery walls or other sensitive tissues.
Once the microcatheter reaches your aneurysm, the surgeon slowly inserts metal coils into the site. By filling the aneurysm with coils, the surgeon blocks it from your artery, thus preventing the aneurysm from receiving blood. The procedure effectively blocks the aneurysm from the rest of your cerebrovascular system to prevent bleeding and other problems.
Depending on your condition, your neurosurgeon will usually want to use general anesthesia while you undergo the aneurysm coiling procedure.
What Is Aneurysm Clipping?
When thinking about aneurysm coiling vs. clipping, you should understand that those are two different procedures trying to accomplish the same thing – excluding your aneurysm from the blood circulation. Instead of winding a catheter through your arterial system, your neurosurgeon will make a small opening in your skull. You will be under general anesthesia, so you don’t have to worry about discomfort or nervousness during the surgery.
Once the neurosurgeon has opened your skull, he or she will locate the aneurysm and clamp it with a clip at its base. This clip, which looks surprisingly like a small coil on a clothespin, separates the aneurysm from the artery and deprives it of blood.
Aneurysm clips come in several sizes and shapes to match your specific needs. For instance, if your aneurysm has a wide base, your surgeon will use a wider clip. If the base is small, your surgeon can use a smaller clip to block the aneurysm from your artery.
Whether you receive a coil or a clip, both are permanently left in place in your body. The material won’t set off any airport or store security alarms. Typically you will also require regular monitoring by your neurosurgeon following a brain aneurysm treatment.
Aneurysm Coiling vs Clipping: Which Is Better for You?
You and your doctor will need to have a discussion about whether aneurysm coiling or aneurysm clipping is a better option for you. You will need to consider several factors before making the decision. Some factors that typically influence the decision include:
- Where the aneurysm is located
- The size and shape of the aneurysm
- Whether the aneurysm has ruptured
- How old you are
- Your general health
Ultimately, you will need to discuss the merits of aneurysm coiling vs. clipping with your neurosurgeon before you can decide which option is right for you. Generally, though, neurosurgeons follow some guidelines that help them make informed decisions that will benefit your health.
When Clipping Is the Better Option
If you have an aneurysm that’s located near the surface of your brain, then your doctor may want to use clipping to solve the problem. Some doctors also prefer clipping when aneurysms have grown particularly large. Since your surgeon will need to make a small opening in your skull, he or she will have direct access to the aneurysm. Many neurosurgeons find that this makes it easier to locate and clip aneurysms on the first try.
Even if you have a large aneurysm near your brain’s surface, a doctor may not want to perform a clipping procedure if you are an older person or have poor health. Older patients or those with health concerns face greater overall risks from those types of procedures. Those patients can also experience difficulties during the recovery process.
When Coiling Is the Better Option
Coiling has become a very common treatment for aneurysms because it is minimally invasive and has a short recovery period. Many neurosurgeons also prefer this method because it is safer for patients over 50 years old. Since aneurysms are most prevalent in people between 35 and 60, though, this consideration may or may not apply to you. Some aneurysms can be deemed not reachable or too risky to be treated by a conventional clipping surgery, because they are so deep in the brain. In those instances, newer coiling technologies may be the only treatment option available.
Coiling and clipping can be done for ruptured and/or unruptured brain aneurysms. Very few people with complex aneurysms may have to undergo both procedures at different time points in their lives.
Since several factors influence whether aneurysm coiling or clipping will work better for you, it’s important to choose a neurosurgeon who has plenty of experience working with a diverse range of patients. Depending on your specific case, you may not even need surgery. Without advice from an expert, though, you can’t make an informed decision that will benefit your short-term and long-term health.