In February, Penny Pritt was rushed to Gulf Coast Medical Center where she underwent surgery for a brain fistula.
“I got this pain in my tooth and I thought what in the world is that, and then it started going up my face, and then I got extremely ill and passed out,” said Penny.
Dr. Constantine Plakas, a neurosurgeon with Lee Health, says a brain fistula is an abnormal connection between an artery and a vein in the brain. “The problem there is that arteries are high pressure systems and veins are low pressure systems, so if you connect the two the veins usually can’t handle all the blood flow and that’s where you can run into problems.”
While the cause is unknown, doctors say patients may experience symptoms like a pulsing sound in the ears, pain in the eyes or loss of vision. “The ones that do notice a problem and are diagnosed before there is one, generally they have symptoms for a long time, for weeks, months, sometimes even years,” said Dr. Plakas.
But other patients, like Penny, need a more immediate response. “For the people who don’t know they have it, what ends up happening is they have a rupture and the fistula bleeds. That’s what happened in her case. In those instances it’s pretty much an emergency,” said Dr. Plakas.
After surgery, Penny spent several weeks in rehabilitation, relearning how to balance and walk. “A lot of it depends on what happens as a result of the bleed, so her bleed was in a place that controls a lot of coordination and balance,” said Dr. Plakas.
Just a few months later, Penny is back to her normal routine. “I’ve achieved all my goals of getting rid of the walker, and actually going outside and walking, and going in the pool and exercising,” said Penny.
Doctors say if left untreated, patients can suffer worse outcomes even death, making it important to tell your doctor about any symptoms you may have.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.