Thunderclap headache almost cost this Dubai resident her life

  • When 41-year-old Ela began experiencing throbbing headache, she ignored it as one of those annoying headaches that come and go. But little did she realise that the slow but steadily increasing pain would soon leave her battling for life. The Filipina was rushed to the Al Zahra Hospital Dubai Emergency department with what doctors call a “thunderclap headache”, that quickly turned into unconsciousness. The patient was quickly assessed and sent for a CT scan less that 20 minutes after her arrival at the emergency unit which revealed that she had had a sudden brain aneurysm, which is a kind of a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain, that aggravated as it led to one of the brain vessels to rupture. Ela had experienced a life-threatening hemorrhagic stroke and had lost consciousness.


    Explaining what happened to Ela, Dr Amr Kabakebji, Interventional Radiologist at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, said: “The CT Scan showed subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the space around the brain) and we rushed the patient for a CT angiogram that showed what we call a basilar tip ruptured aneurysm, which is a bulge in a blood vessel in the brain, and that vessel had got ruptured.

    To fix the damage, the team of doctors began what is called the “coiling” procedure on Ela called the endovascular or aneurysm coiling, which is a complex minimally invasive procedure used to block the blood flow to an aneurysm by placing a stent through an artery in the brain. Al Zahra Hospital Dubai is one of only three hospitals in the UAE that perform this intricate procedure.

    From the initial investigation and until completing the lifesaving procedure, Ela underwent a one and a half hour treatment. However, after a few days of progressive recovery, the patient had another major setback as she developed a what is known as left sigmoid sinus thrombosis (a blood clot), a rare complication derived from the stent placed in the artery to stop the aneurysm’s blood flow.

    “We then treated the complication with blood thinners which worked beautifully since the aneurism was completely blocked. This treatment made the blood clot melt away and disappear,” said Dr. Mona Thakre, Consultant Neurologist at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai.

    Dr Hussain AlRahma, director of Emergency Services at AL Zahra Hospital Dubai, said: “Ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in about 50 per cent of cases, with 15 per cent of people dyeing before reaching the hospital. Of those who survive, approximately 66 per cent suffer permanent neurological deficits. The key to making a full recovery in such cases is timeliness and teamwork.”

    “I remember being rushed to the emergency room and being very scared. After that everything went dark. I woke up in the Intensive Care Unit at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai not knowing where I was. It is a miracle I made a full recovery. These doctors, they saved my life. The only reason why I am here today speaking to you. They made my miracle happen “

    Ela made a full recovery following this sudden brain aneurism and was cleared to go home less than two weeks days after the incident.

    1-Common signs of a ruptured aneurysm

    >Sudden, extremely severe headache

    >Nausea and vomiting

    >Stiff neck

    >Blurred or double vision

    >Sensitivity to light


    >A drooping eyelid

    >Loss of consciousness



    >Older age

    >Cigarette smoking

    >High blood pressure (hypertension)

    >Drug abuse, particularly the use of cocaine

    >Heavy alcohol consumption

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