A 46-year-old woman suffering from a life-threatening cerebral hemorrhage was saved by Israeli doctors using a new brain cooling procedure.
The treatment, which prevents the death of brain cells by freezing them, was administered by doctors at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center to a Philippine woman.
The story begins with Nurila, a nursing assistant who has worked in Israel as a caregiver for nearly 20 years to support her family in the Philippines. For several days, she suffered from persistent headaches but did not attach any importance to them. But she collapsed and was taken by ambulance to Shaare Zedek, where she underwent a comprehensive series of tests.
“Nurila came to us suffering from a spontaneous cerebral aneurysm with subarachnoid hemorrhage,” explained Dr. Stefan Mausbach, who heads the hospital’s department of neurological intensive care. Her degree of hemorrhaging had a mortality rate of 80-100 percent, he noted.
To relieve increasing intracranial pressure and fluid accumulation in Nurila’s brain, doctors tried medication, a brain catheter, and even surgery to open her skull, but nothing worked.
Making matters even more urgent, Nurila had a cortical cerebral infarction, a process that results in an area of dead cellular tissue. Cerebral infarction is caused by a disruption or restriction of blood flow to the brain. It was discovered that Nurila was also suffering from vasospasm, a narrowing of the brain’s blood vessels.
Left untreated, cerebral infarction can lead to permanent disabilities or even death.
After consultation with brain system experts, the doctors decided to try brain cooling, which is currently being carried out in a research framework in several hospitals in Germany.
“The method of cooling the brain is usually performed after resuscitation, and in Israel it has not yet been used as a life-saving treatment line in cases of cerebral hemorrhage and life-threatening intracranial pressure.” Dr. Mausbach explained.
“We performed the cooling using one of the most advanced systems available today, manufactured by the Arctic Sun company. With this method, we cool the brain to a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius for 8-10 days,” he said.
“Within a few hours the pressure decreased, and the bleeding decreased significantly,” Dr. Mausbach said. Eight days later, after a “significant improvement,” the doctors began the warming process.
After a short hospitalization and follow-up, Nurila was released to continue rehabilitation. Dr. Mausbach said that after a lengthy rehab, Nurila recently returned to Shaare Zedek to have the hole in her skull closed.
“We are very happy and proud of the result,” Dr. Mausbach said.