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Aneurysms: Super-glue-like fluid gives new hope

An aneurysm is a blood vessel that stretches and sometimes bursts. For about 25,000 Americans every year, a ruptured aneurysm leads to severe disability, or even death, according to The Brain Aneurysm Foundation.

But there's a new treatment, a kind of super-glue for the body, that is now saving lives, CBS News Correspondent Don Teague reported on "The Early Show."

He said that, for nearly three decades, Amy Bechtold has served her country as a colonel and judge in the Air Force JAG Corps.

Bechtold, chief regional judge of the Air Force Trial Judiciary, said, "We all raise our right hand to support and defend the Constitution, as a trial judge, I'm doing that very directly."

With tours in places that included Bosnia and Afghanistan, she's seen her share of danger, but a tiny brain aneurysm is what nearly cost Bechtold her life.

Bechtold said she knew exactly what aneurisms were because her father had an aortic aneurism years ago.

Bechtold heard ringing in her ears. A doctor's visit revealed an aneurysm tucked behind her optic nerve. She was told she needed surgery immediately.

Maj. Christopher Koebbe, M.D., Bechtold's neurosurgeon, explained an aneurysm is a blister or a bulge - a weakness along the wall of an artery.

He said, "The danger of an aneurysm is that it could rupture, causing a massive brain hemorrhage. If that were to happen, there would be a 50 to 60 percent chance that a patient would die or be disabled from that hemorrhage."

Ten years ago, Koebbe would have attacked brain aneurysms through invasive open surgery with large incisions in the skull. But new technology has been a game-changer.

"This is a great advancement," Koebbe said. "We can basically fill the aneurysm from the inside out."

It's a super-glue-like fluid called Onyx.

Koebbe explained, "We actually make a small opening in the femoral artery in the groin area and track long catheters into the brain cavities, into the arteries of the brain. The minute that fluid hits the blood, it immediately polymerizes or forms a solid. The glue literally doesn't escape the aneurysm. There's no blood getting into the aneurysm. Thus, the aneurysm is cured, it's not going to bleed."

Bechtold's surgery took less than an hour.

In "before" and "after" photos, Koebbe pointed out the treatment "almost took an eraser and just erased the aneurysm from the picture."

Bechtold was out the door the next morning.

"To have brain surgery and go home the day after, to me, that is mind-boggling," she said.

Bechtold is on leave for 30 days, but is planning on going back to right back to work.