Six-year-old Haylie Howe beat a lethal brain disorder with the help of glue. That's right, glue.
Haylie was diagnosed with vein of Galen malformation around her first birthday. The disorder causes blood to flow faster than normal and often leads to heart failure. But a New York City doctor cured her with a procedure that involved injecting glue into her system.
Dr. Alejandro Berenstein, an interventional neuro radiologist at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, treats up to 40 of the 200 diagnosed cases of vein of Galen malformation each year, he told The Huffington Post through a spokeswoman. He says he cures 80 percent of his patients.
Haylie is his latest success story. On March 28, the Chicago-area girl was given a clear X-ray and the prognosis of a "normal life," ABC News reported. According to the network, her mother, Lisa Hribal, sobbed joyfully as Berenstein delivered the news.
"[Haylie] knows how lucky she is, but she doesn't know why," her mother told ABC. "At the grocery store, she will say, 'This is the best day of my life.'"
According to Boston Children's Hospital, the vein of Galen is a prominent vein at the base of the brain. Children who have the malformation are missing capillaries that moderate blood flow between arteries and veins, placing more pressure on the heart. Patients often die in early infancy of congestive heart failure. Some, like Haylie, develop hydrocephalus, a buildup of liquid on the brain. The malformation hinders the processing of cerebrospinal fluid.
As an infant Haylie developed prominent blue veins on her face and showed developmental problems, according to ABC. A physician discovered her skull was larger than normal but misdiagnosed the problem at first. Further tests revealed vein of Galen malformation.
When Haylie was 2, shortly before her mother contacted Berenstein, Haylie suffered a stroke. Her malformation was more severe than many cases, and the outlook was grim for her recovery, the hospital confirmed. But recover she did.
Haylie and others like her can thank Krazy Glue for their survival.
In the 1970s Berenstein began work on his embolization method, injecting glue into the malformations to restore normal blood flow. His product of choice at the time was the popular adhesive, which once advertised its strength in an ad showing a construction worker gluing his hard hat to a beam and hanging on.
Berenstein (scroll below to see the doctor in surgery) told HuffPost he never knew if Krazy Glue was aware of his unorthodox use of the product, but eventually he graduated to medical-grade glues. Everything else in the procedure has improved, too, including his skills, he said.
Haylie required more than 15 embolizations before she was cured, explained Michelle Sorscher, Berenstein's nurse practitioner. The injections were made into a catheter that entered Haylie's femoral artery in her leg and snaked up to her brain.
Berenstein recommended that if parents suspect their child has vein of Galen malformation, they should see their pediatrician first. But if they're not satisfied, he said they should make an appointment with a pediatric neurologist.
"What these parents shouldn’t do is jump to an operation with someone who might not have much experience or necessarily know what they are doing," he said. "If the child is diagnosed and surgery is needed, the parent should ask the physician they are considering how many of these cases he or she has done. There are few people who have the experience and trained multidisciplinary team necessary to treat these cases."
Dr. Alejandro Berenstein performs an embolization on another patient with vein of Galen malformation. Credit: St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital