One day at work, Patricia Tilleli felt a sudden pop, then warmth radiating inside her head. She became nauseous and feverish.
Realizing something was wrong, coworkers called 911. An ambulance soon rushed the 55-year-old Commack resident to Southside Hospital.
Neurosurgeon Justin Thomas, MD, diagnosed Ms. Tilleli with a spontaneous, nontraumatic subdural hematoma on the left side of her brain. Blood had pooled between her brain and the dura (the strongest, outermost membrane protecting the brain).
Ms. Tilleli’s critical condition necessitated immediate surgery. Dr. Thomas performed a craniotomy to open the skull, access and remove the blood clot, and stop the hemorrhaging. Not until the operation could he directly see the cause of the blood clot: a rupture in a vein that bridged the cortex and the dura.
“Ms. Tilleli was unique, because she had no history of trauma associated with the subdural hematoma,” said Dr. Thomas. “Spontaneous subdural hematomas are known to happen, but there are relatively few cases in the neurosurgical literature. But these cases can occur after seemingly mild injuries that do not involve direct trauma to the head.”
A post-op computed tomography (CT) scan of Ms. Tilleli’s head and neck showed complete removal of the hematoma and relief of the pressure on her brain. There was no evidence of an underlying vascular malformation to account for the spontaneous hemorrhage.
Ms. Tilleli’s post-surgical care included inpatient rehabilitation with physical and speech therapy, plus a conventional angiogram to rule out a vascular malformation.
She celebrated one year after her surgery this spring.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” Ms. Tilleli said. “I appreciate everything. Sometimes, I watch the news and I see that people have died from one thing or another and I reflect on my own life-threatening experience, and wonder why was I spared. I am grateful to Dr. Thomas and the Southside Hospital staff for saving my life.”