Aneurysm Patient Plays Tennis Two Weeks After Surgery


The emergency room physician had good news for retired Marine officer Darrell Parkin: the head pain that brought him to his local hospital in Bountiful, Utah wasn’t a stroke. However, Darrell would need additional testing to uncover the source of his pain, so he chose to go to University of Utah Health for an MRI.

Neurologist Dana DeWitt, MD, showed Darrell a scan and explained that they could see loose blood on his brain. DeWitt referred Darrell to neurosurgeon Phil Taussky, MD, at University of Utah Health's Clinical Neurosciences Center, who confirmed that Darrell had a large aneurysm. 

An aneurysm occurs when the walls of a blood vessel weaken and widen, creating an abnormal bulge that fills with blood. Large aneurisms are more likely to rupture and cause bleeding in the brain, which can lead to stroke or other serious complications. Traditionally, large aneurysms like Darrell’s required a craniotomy, an open-head surgery that would allow surgeons to place a clip across the neck of the aneurysm. With this traditional treatment, patients can typically expect to stay in the hospital from three to five days. 

But Taussky had good news for Darrell. The location and size of his aneurysm were perfect for a revolutionary new flow diversion procedure utilizing a pipeline embolization device. In this minimally invasive, intravascular treatment, a stent is threaded through an artery in the groin up to the brain and then is placed across the neck of the aneurism. “Pipeline is really meant for patients with large or giant aneurysms that in the past were really difficult to treat,” says Taussky. “Patients do really well and go home the next day. It then takes about six to twelve months for the aneurysm to completely heal itself.” Taussky fellowship-trained at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida for the procedure and is the only surgeon in the Intermountain West certified to perform it. 

Darrell’s surgery was a success, and while Darrell was thrilled that his aneurysm surgery was so minimally invasive and that he could go home after an overnight stay at the hospital, he was disappointed to learn that wouldn’t be able to play tennis for a month. “I can’t take a month off tennis. I’ve paid for tennis time at Lagoon Indoor Courts and I can’t just not show up,” he told Taussky, who replied, “You have to follow instructions!” 

Darrell returned to see Taussky for a follow up visit two weeks after the surgery. Taussky was pleased with Darrell’s recovery and had more good news for Darrell: he could again play tennis. “Oh! I’m going to give you a hug!” said Darrell. Now that he’s back on the tennis court, Darrell says, “I played this morning and I play at least three times a week. I keep active that way and I’m happy as can be now.” He’s thankful for the wonderful care he received at University of Utah Hospital and for Taussky’s expertise. He praises Taussky, saying, “He’s very caring and very careful. I think he’s a godsend, really. He’s just super and I’m glad they have him at U of U Health.”

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