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ABC News Reporter Lisa Colagrossi Suffers Fatal Aneurysm Rupture

You may have heard the sad news about ABC Eyewitness News reporter Lisa Colagrossi. Colagrossi, 49, has died of a ruptured aneurysm.

An aneurysm is a bulging, weak spot in a blood vessel in the brain. Aneurysms can be present for years or decades without causing trouble.

“Most patients are completely unaware that they have an aneurysm until it bleeds,” says Dr. Sean Lavine, Associate Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery and Radiology at Columbia University Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital. “Some patients have aneurysms discovered, usually incidentally when undergoing MRI scans for unrelated conditions.”

Many people with aneurysms lead long and healthy lives. But when an aneurysm ruptures, like Colagrossi’s did, it is an extreme medical emergency. A ruptured aneurysm allows blood to hemorrhage into the brain. This usually causes a sudden, severe headache—sometimes called a “thunderclap headache.”

According to news reports, after Colagrossi’s aneurysm ruptured on the way back from an assignment, she was able to receive emergency medical attention quickly. Her cameraman flagged down a passing ambulance, and it brought her to the hospital. But the reporter, who had lost consciousness, never revived. She passed away in the hospital a few days later.

Being treated quickly at a major medical center–as Colagrossi was–gives patients the best chance for survival. But according to the National Institute of Health, nearly half of patients with a ruptured aneurysm don’t survive the first 24 hours after rupture. Another quarter of patients die from complications within six months.

“The most fortunate have little brain injury after an aneurysm ruptures and are able to receive treatment to prevent re-bleeding,” says Dr. Lavine. This treatment may include procedures like endovascular embolization or surgical clip ligation.”

Endovascular embolization is a minimally invasive, through-the-blood-vessel procedure to block the aneurysm from the inside. With surgical clip ligation, surgeons perform open brain surgery. They approach the aneurysm from the outside and place a tiny clip at the base of the aneurysm to block its blood flow.

Striking as they do without warning, aneurysms can seem frightening. The good news is that ruptured aneurysms are rare. Each year, about 1 in every 10,000 people suffer a ruptured aneurysm.

“Patients with a family history of aneurysm or bleeding stroke in the brain can discuss screening tests for the discovery of aneurysms with their primary care physicians,” says Dr. Lavine.

Learn more about brain aneurysms here and Dr. Sean Lavine here.

We send our deepest condolences to Ms. Colagrossi’s family.

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