Young Norwegian Man Travels to Barrow for Aneurysm Surgery

Neurosurgeons at Barrow Neurological Institute have successfully treated a very complex brain aneurysm from a 35-year-old man from Norway, preventing the golf ball-sized malformation from rupturing and sparing his life.

Before traveling to the U.S. for surgery at Barrow, Kristian Knudsen was told by surgeons in Norway that his aneurysm was too risky to treat. He had already undergone two previous brain surgeries in Norway and without another surgery, the aneurysm would grow and rupture. A brain aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel and is life-threatening it if bursts.

“It felt as if I was living a nightmare,” says Knudsen. “I had been diagnosed in 2006 and as the aneurysm grew I underwent two brain surgeries in Norway to treat the malformation. The second surgery caused a stroke and as a result, I had to relearn to walk and struggled with cognitive deficits including memory loss.”

Michael Lawton, MD, Barrow Neurosurgeon

Knudsen was told there were only two hospitals in the world which could attempt to safely treat the deadly malformation – a hospital in Japan and Barrow in Phoenix. He selected Barrow and renowned neurosurgeon Michael Lawton, MD, because of the Institute’s and Dr. Lawton’s vast experience with treating brain aneurysms and other forms of complex cerebral brain malformations.

On April 19, Knudsen underwent an innovative and risky surgery followed by a second surgery the following day at Barrow to effectively treat the aneurysm. Knudsen’s case was so complex and the surgery so rare that his neurosurgeon in Norway traveled to Barrow to observe in hopes of helping future European patients.

“Kristian’s aneurysm was very deep inside the brain making it difficult to treat. We used a rare method involving both open surgery and minimally invasive surgery to safely deflate the aneurysm and minimize risk,” says Dr. Lawton, President and CEO of Barrow. Very few surgeons can perform this type of surgery but because of Barrow’s expertise treating brain aneurysms, we have popularized the technique.”

Kristian Knudsen with his wife, Stine, and their two children

Just five days after Knudsen’s surgery, the husband and father of two young children was released from the hospital. He and his wife, Stine, are preparing to return to Norway early next week.

“We are so thankful for Dr. Lawton and Barrow,” says Stine. “Kristian’s recovery and outcome is totally amazing. We no longer have to live in fear of Kristian’s aneurysm rupturing and we can plan for a wonderful future together with our children.”

Barrow, which is located at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, performs more brain surgeries annually than anywhere in the United States. The Institute is also known for training the most neurosurgeons from around the world. As a result of its teaching excellence, Dr. Lawton, recently published a book titled Seven Bypasses to educate neurosurgeons about new surgical techniques – including the approach used in Knudsen’s case – in the neurosurgery field.

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Norwegian man travels to Phoenix to have life-saving brain surgery