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Side by Side: When Everything Changes

In the last months of 2010, 20-year-old Danny Strobbe was enjoying the life of a college student when he experienced the most excruciating pain he’d ever had. In high school he’d suffered from severe headaches, but this was different. A trip to Barnes-Jewish Hospital ultimately revealed that Strobbe’s brain had hemorrhaged.

In January 2011, Michael Chicoine, MD, Washington University neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish, performed a craniotomy on Strobbe to stop the bleeding; a second surgery to reduce pressure followed. Another hemorrhage in September 2011 led to additional surgery, during which Chicoine used a new technology called intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (iMRI)—performed with a device that is in use at only a small number of institutions worldwide. The iMRI gave Strobbe’s surgical team a view of their progress in real time in the operating room. As a result, they could more precisely remove the source of Strobbe’s brain abnormality while minimizing both the risk of damaging healthy tissue and the need for additional surgery.

Danny Strobbe Survivor of multiple brain hemorrhages

On His Initial Diagnosis
I was taking college algebra and some other classes, just going along in my daily life. Everything was great. And then the next thing you know, I’m in the hospital, and everything changed.

On His Treatment
I can barely remember October and November 2011, to be honest, except some things involving my family. I can recall my dad saying, though, that I was one of the first people to be operated on using the iMRI. It’s pretty amazing. I feel like it saved my life.

How He Is Now
I’m doing great. I had my six-month check in April, and everything looked good. I celebrated the year anniversary of my surgery with the iMRI in September. I’m thankful for Dr. Chicoine and the iMRI. I’m also truly thankful for my family and my girlfriend and her family for helping me through everything. Right now, I’m taking it easy and enjoying life, and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead

Michael Chicoine, MD Washington University neurosurgeon

On Strobbe’s Condition
Danny Strobbe’s multiple hemor­rhages were caused by a cavernous malformation, a type of vascular irregularity in the brain. Because this abnormality was located in deep-seated and critical areas of the brain, an aggressive attempt to remove it entirely was not pursued during the first surgeries. The concern was that complete removal might cause disabling side effects, including paralysis, coma or even death.

On the Use of iMRI
Using this technology during the third surgery allowed for nearly complete and safe removal of the abnormality. This strategy has allowed Danny to resume a normal lifestyle and to avoid consequences that these deep-seated cavernous malformations can cause.

On the Future of Treatment
To date we have just scratched the surface of the advantages that iMRI may provide in treating complex conditions of the brain. And it’s only because of the collaboration and generosity of the many people involved that we are among the first to adopt and use this technology. 

To view a video about iMRI, visit bjhne.ws/du.

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