Utah study to help families prone to aneurysms

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    By ANNIE HINRICHS

    In May of 1989 six children in Mississippi were at home with their father when he started complaining that his severe headache was no longer bearable.

    Two of Bill Genetti’s sons immediately drove him to the emergency room, where he was flown to a hospital in Memphis. But Genetti died before he could say goodbye to his wife. Genetti suffered from a stroke called a cerebral aneurysm.

    An aneurysm is an enlargement of a section of an artery due to weakness in the arterial wall, often resulting in internal bleeding, said Dr. Keyvan Abtin, an Aneurysm Coordinator at the University of Utah.

    Linda Steele, Genetic Epidemiology Representative at the University of Utah, said an aneurysm can occur without giving the victim any warning. What may seem like a headache or a tired feeling can really be a life and death situation.

    Little details were known about cerebral aneurysms when it struck the Genetti family, but now more is being done to prevent this disease.

    The University of Utah’s Genetic Epidemilogy Department recently began a study to identify a gene that causes the disease. The study focuses on families with at least three people who suffered from an aneurysm.

    “The thing that is really neat about this new study is that we have brought people in and have found aneurysm’s. Basically we have saved their lives. We have the techniques to do this study,” Steele said.

    According to the Department of Neurological Surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, first degree relatives of patients with aneurysms are four times more likely to contract the disease than the general population.

    “Our goal is to isolate the genetic component causing people to have an increased of risk of aneurysm. No studies have directly addressed or identified a genetic link,” Abtin said.

    John Pile-Spellman, associate professor of radiology and neurosurgery at Columbia University, said approximately 30,000 people in the United States suffer from an aneurysm rupture each year.

    “It has been estimated that if 5 people suffer a bleed (from an aneurism) today, in one year, only one person will be alive and well. One person will be disabled and three will be dead,” Pile-Spellman said.

    Steele says the University of Utah hopes their study will help families like the Genetti’s be more prepared. For more information call an Aneurysm Coordinator at (801) 581-5070.

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