Stories about: Pial Synangiosis

Full circle: From moyamoya patient to intern

treatment for moyamoya disease

It’s the last day of Justin Doo’s research internship in the Department of Neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital and he’s eager to join the team for a celebratory scoop of ice cream at JP Licks. Before he leaves, he meets with his supervisor, Dr. Laura Lehman — but they both know this isn’t a final goodbye. The 18-year-old will see Dr. Lehman again within the year, because he isn’t just her intern. He’s also her patient.

Unlike most summer interns, Justin has already spent plenty of time at Boston Children’s — more than a decade, in fact. When he was 7 years old, his parents brought him to the hospital for an evaluation of his frequent headaches. But a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan revealed that what everyone believed to be migraines were actually symptoms of a rare but serious cerebrovascular condition called moyamoya disease. “I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time,” remembers Justin. “I just knew that my parents were crying.”

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Watch Children's neurosurgeons perform surgery online

treating moymoyA disease like moyamoya is so rare it only affects a few hundred children in the world. So few moyamoya cases are reported each year that many hospitals don’t have much of a track record or experience in treating the disease, in which the thickening of cerebral arteries reduces blood flow to the brain and require the formation of a network of tiny but weak arties to provide an ‘alternate route’ for the blood to reach the brain. These arteries are so small and closely aligned they resemble wisps of smoke on some tests. (Moyamoya means ‘puff of smoke’ in Japanese, hence the disease’s name.)

Children’s Hospital Boston, however, has been successfully treating kids with moyamoya for two decades using a special procedure developed by Children’s researchers and scientists.

As part of a webcast that will air live at 10 a.m. tomorrow, neurosurgeons from Children’s will telecast an operation on a young moyamoya patient, giving the virtual audience a bedside view of the surgical team’s cutting-edge procedure.

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