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Open access

Lead toxicity due to retained intracranial bullet fragments: illustrative case

Daniel M. Aaronson, Ahmed J. Awad, and Hirad S. Hedayat


Lead toxicity (plumbism) secondary to retained lead bullet fragments is a rare complication in patients with gunshot wounds. To the authors’ knowledge, there has been no definitive case reported of lead toxicity due to retained intracranial bullet fragments.


The authors reported the case of a 23-year-old man who presented after being found down. Computed tomography scanning of the head revealed bullet fragments within the calvaria adjacent to the left transverse sinus. During follow-up, he developed symptoms of plumbism with paresthesias in his bilateral hands and thighs, abdominal cramping, labile mood, and intermittent psychosis. Plumbism was confirmed with sequentially elevated blood lead levels (BLLs). The patient opted for surgical removal of the bullet fragments, which led to reduction in BLLs and resolution of his symptoms.


Although rare, lead toxicity from retained intracranial bullet fragments should be considered in patients who have suffered a gunshot wound to the head and have symptoms of lead toxicity with elevated BLLs. For safe and accessible intracranial bullet fragments in patients with plumbism, surgical intervention may be indicated.

Free access

Deep brain stimulation of the ventralis intermedius nucleus for the treatment of essential tremor

Alexander G. Chartrain, Ahmed J. Awad, Jonathan J. Rasouli, Robert J. Rothrock, and Brian H. Kopell

A 59-year-old woman with a 30-year history of essential tremor refractory to medical therapy underwent staged deep brain stimulation of the ventralis intermedius nucleus of the thalamus (VIM). Left-sided lead placement was performed first. Once in the operating room, microelectrode recording (MER) was performed to confirm the appropriate trajectory and identify the VIM border with the ventralis caudalis nucleus. MER was repeated after repositioning 2 mm anteriorly to reduce the likelihood of stimulation-induced paresthesias. Physical examination prior to permanent lead placement demonstrated micro-lesion effect, suggesting optimal trajectory. After implantation of the permanent lead, physical examination showed excellent results.

The video can be found here:

Free access

Endovascular management of fusiform aneurysms in the posterior circulation: the era of flow diversion

Ahmed J. Awad, Justin R. Mascitelli, Reham R. Haroun, Reade A. De Leacy, Johanna T. Fifi, and J Mocco

Fusiform aneurysms are uncommon compared with their saccular counterparts, yet they remain very challenging to treat and are associated with high rates of rebleeding and morbidity. Lack of a true aneurysm neck renders simple clip reconstruction or coil embolization usually impossible, and more advanced techniques are required, including bypass, stent-assisted coiling, and, more recently, flow diversion. In this article, the authors review posterior circulation fusiform aneurysms, including pathogenesis, natural history, and endovascular treatment, including the role of flow diversion. In addition, the authors propose an algorithm for treatment based on their practice.

Free access

Dabigatran, intracranial hemorrhage, and the neurosurgeon

Ahmed J. Awad, Brian P. Walcott, Christopher J. Stapleton, Vijay Yanamadala, Brian V. Nahed, and Jean-Valery Coumans

Dabigatran etexilate (Pradaxa) is a novel oral anticoagulant that has gained FDA approval for the prevention of ischemic stroke and systemic embolism in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. In randomized trials, the incidence of hemorrhagic events has been demonstrated to be lower in patients treated with dabigatran compared with the traditional anticoagulant warfarin. However, dabigatran does not have reliable laboratory tests to measure levels of anticoagulation and there is no pharmacological antidote. These drawbacks are challenging in the setting of intracerebral hemorrhage. In this article, the authors provide background information on dabigatran, review the existing anecdotal experiences with treating intracerebral hemorrhage related to dabigatran therapy, present a case study of intracranial hemorrhage in a patient being treated with dabigatran, and suggest clinical management strategies. The development of reversal agents is urgently needed given the growing number of patients treated with this medication.

Free access

Natural and surgical history of Chiari malformation Type I in the pediatric population

I. Jonathan Pomeraniec, Alexander Ksendzovsky, Ahmed J. Awad, Francis Fezeu, and John A. Jane Jr.


The natural and surgical history of Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) in pediatric patients is currently not well described. In this study the authors discuss the clinical and radiological presentation and outcomes in a large cohort of pediatric CM-I patients treated with either conservative or surgical management.


The authors retrospectively reviewed 95 cases involving pediatric patients with CM-I who presented between 2004 and 2013. The patients ranged in age from 9 months to 18 years (mean 8 years) at presentation. The cohort was evenly split between the sexes. Twenty-five patients underwent posterior fossa decompression (PFD) with either dural splitting or duraplasty. Seventy patients were managed without surgery. Patients were followed radiologically (mean 44.8 months, range 1.2–196.6 months) and clinically (mean 66.3 months, range 1.2–106.5 months).


Seventy patients were treated conservatively and followed with serial outpatient neurological and radiological examinations, whereas 25 patients were treated with PFD. Of these 25 surgical patients, 11 were treated with duraplasty (complete dural opening) and 14 were treated with a dura-splitting technique (incomplete dural opening). Surgical intervention was associated with better clinical resolution of symptoms and radiological resolution of tonsillar ectopia and syringomyelia (p = 0.0392). Over the course of follow-up, 20 (41.7%) of 48 nonsurgical patients who were symptomatic at presentation experienced improvement in symptoms and 18 (75%) of 24 symptomatic surgical patients showed clinical improvement (p = 0.0117). There was no statistically significant difference in resolution of symptoms between duraplasty and dura-splitting techniques (p = 0.3572) or between patients who underwent tonsillectomy and tonsillopexy (p = 0.1667). Neither of the 2 patients in the conservative group with syrinx at presentation showed radiological evidence of resolution of the syrinx, whereas 14 (87.5%) of 16 patients treated with surgery showed improvement or complete resolution of syringomyelia (p = 0.0392). In the nonsurgical cohort, 3 patients (4.3%) developed new or increased syrinx.


The overwhelming majority of CM-I patients (92.9%) managed conservatively do not experience clinical or radiological progression, and a sizeable minority (41.7%) of those who present with symptoms improve. However, appropriately selected symptomatic patients (sleep apnea and dysphagia) and those presenting with syringomyelia should be considered surgical candidates because of the high rates of clinical (75%) and radiological improvement (87.5%).

Free access

Stereotactic laser ablation of amygdala and hippocampus using a Leksell stereotactic frame

Ahmed J. Awad, Ha S. Nguyen, Elsa Arocho-Quinones, Ninh Doan, Wade Mueller, and Sean M. Lew

Approximately one-third of patients with epilepsy are resistant to medical therapy, particularly in those with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy. While there are several surgical modalities, efforts have been focused on developing safer and minimally invasive techniques. In this video, the authors present the case of a 45-year-old woman with a 2-year history of refractory left mesial temporal lobe epilepsy who underwent MRI-guided laser ablation of amygdala and hippocampus. There were no perioperative complications.

The video can be found here:

Free access

Radiation-induced brain injury: low-hanging fruit for neuroregeneration

Terry C. Burns, Ahmed J. Awad, Matthew D. Li, and Gerald A. Grant

Brain radiation is a fundamental tool in neurooncology to improve local tumor control, but it leads to profound and progressive impairments in cognitive function. Increased attention to quality of life in neurooncology has accelerated efforts to understand and ameliorate radiation-induced cognitive sequelae. Such progress has coincided with a new understanding of the role of CNS progenitor cell populations in normal cognition and in their potential utility for the treatment of neurological diseases. The irradiated brain exhibits a host of biochemical and cellular derangements, including loss of endogenous neurogenesis, demyelination, and ablation of endogenous oligodendrocyte progenitor cells. These changes, in combination with a state of chronic neuroinflammation, underlie impairments in memory, attention, executive function, and acquisition of motor and language skills. Animal models of radiation-induced brain injury have demonstrated a robust capacity of both neural stem cells and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells to restore cognitive function after brain irradiation, likely through a combination of cell replacement and trophic effects. Oligodendrocyte progenitor cells exhibit a remarkable capacity to migrate, integrate, and functionally remyelinate damaged white matter tracts in a variety of preclinical models. The authors here critically address the opportunities and challenges in translating regenerative cell therapies from rodents to humans. Although valiant attempts to translate neuroprotective therapies in recent decades have almost uniformly failed, the authors make the case that harnessing human radiation-induced brain injury as a scientific tool represents a unique opportunity to both successfully translate a neuroregenerative therapy and to acquire tools to facilitate future restorative therapies for human traumatic and degenerative diseases of the central nervous system.

Free access

Association between biomechanical parameters and concussion in helmeted collisions in American football: a review of the literature

Jonathan A. Forbes, Ahmed J. Awad, Scott Zuckerman, Kevin Carr, and Joseph S. Cheng


The authors' goal was to better define the relationship between biomechanical parameters of a helmeted collision and the likelihood of concussion.


The English-language literature was reviewed in search of scholarly articles describing the rotational and translational accelerations observed during all monitored impact conditions that resulted in concussion at all levels of American football.


High school players who suffer concussion experience an average of 93.9g of translational acceleration (TA) and 6505.2 rad/s2 of rotational acceleration (RA). College athletes experience an average of 118.4g of TA and 5311.6 rad/s2 of RA. While approximately 3% of collisions are associated with TAs greater than the mean TA associated with concussion, only about 0.02% of collisions actually result in a concussion. Associated variables that determine whether a player who experiences a severe collision also experiences a concussion remain hypothetical at present.


The ability to reliably predict the incidence of concussion based purely on biomechanical data remains elusive. This study provides novel, important information that helps to quantify the relative insignificance of biomechanical parameters in prediction of concussion risk. Further research will be necessary to better define other factors that predispose to concussion.

Free access

Targeting MET for glioma therapy

Ahmed J. Awad, Terry C. Burns, Ying Zhang, and Roger Abounader

Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common and most lethal of all primary brain tumors. Even with the standard therapy, life expectancy is still poor, with an average survival of approximately 14 months following initial diagnosis. Hence, there is an urgent need for novel treatment strategies that inhibit proliferation and angiogenesis in high-grade gliomas. One such strategy consists of inhibiting receptor tyrosine kinases, including MET and/or its ligand hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Because of their widespread involvement in human cancer, HGF and MET have emerged as promising therapeutic targets, and some inhibitory agents that target them have already entered clinical trials. In this paper, the authors highlight recent evidence implicating HGF/MET pathway deregulation in glioblastoma multiforme, discuss therapeutic approaches to inhibit HGF/MET signaling, and summarize ongoing clinical trials targeting this pathway.

Restricted access

En bloc resection of a pheochromocytoma metastatic to the spine for local tumor control and for treatment of chronic catecholamine release and related hypertension

Case report

Paul E. Kaloostian, Patricia L. Zadnik, Ahmed J. Awad, Edward McCarthy, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, and Daniel M. Sciubba

Resection of metastatic pheochromocytomas may be complicated by transient postoperative neurological deficits due to hypotension. The authors report the first case of en bloc excision of a spinal pheochromocytoma with associated long-term hypertensive management off all medication. Interestingly, this is the first case of transient hypotension following en bloc resection of pheochromocytoma associated with temporary hypotension-associated neurological decline that resolved completely after correction of hypotension postoperatively. A 23-year-old man with a prior adrenalectomy for pheochromocytoma presented with focal thoracic pain. He had a known T-10 vertebral body lesion for which he received chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Imaging demonstrated increased destruction of the T-10 vertebral body, which was concerning for tumor growth. The patient underwent angiographic embolization followed by single-stage posterior en bloc vertebrectomy with placement of a cage and posterior instrumentation and fusion without event. However, approximately 24 hours after surgery, the patient's systolic blood pressure was consistently no higher than 70 mm Hg. During this time, he began suffering from severe bilateral lower-extremity weakness. His systolic blood pressure increased with dopamine, and his strength immediately improved. The patient's oral regimen of adrenergic blockade was stopped, and he recovered without event. Since that time, the patient has been symptom free and requires no antihypertensive medication. The role of en bloc resection for metastatic lesions of the spine is controversial but may be warranted in cases of metastatic pheochromocytoma. En bloc resection avoids intralesional tumor resection and thus may help prevent complications of hypertensive crisis associated with hormonal secretion and extensive blood loss, which are not uncommon with pheochromocytoma resection surgeries. Additionally, the role of en bloc spondylectomy in this setting may allow for metabolic treatment as patients with actively secreting tumors may no longer require antiadrenergic medications.