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Patient Stories

Unexpected Discovery Leads to Life-Saving Procedure

As a registered nurse for close to 20 years, Sherry Tirelli knew something serious was happening when she developed high blood pressure, severe headaches and neck pain early last spring. While undergoing a series of tests at NSMC Salem Hospital to determine the root cause of her ailment—diagnosed and successfully treated as hereditary hypertension—an angiogram revealed that Tirelli had a potentially life-threatening condition. Like a hose about to break, the artery to her spleen was visibly bulging, threatening to rupture. "I was shocked," says the healthy and active 40-year-old Middleton mother of two. "Any kind of trauma could have caused it to rupture, so I wanted to get it taken care of as soon as possible."

Tirelli was initially evaluated by Richard Goodenough, M.D., Chief of Vascular Surgery, with assistance from vascular surgeon James Balcom, IV, M.D. Tirelli chose to have a minimally invasive procedure called a splenic artery embolization, rather than have her spleen removed. Employing image-guided catheter-based technology, interventional radiologists Allan Hoffman, M.D., and Mark Girard, M.D., along with Dr. Balcom, conducted the four-hour procedure in the NSMC Salem Hospital interventional radiology suite.

"The end result for Sherry was that there was no abdominal incision—the procedure was done through a needle puncture in her groin—and she walked away with a functioning spleen," said Dr. Hoffman. After her recovery period (about half the time she would have needed if doctors had removed her spleen), Tirelli was up and about with her family, just in time to delight in the skiing, sledding and ice skating they enjoy each winter.