An arteriovenous malformation is a tangle of blood vessels in the brain that can impact blood flow. There are multiple arteriovenous malformation treatment options available to NJ patients.
- Some patients may be monitored, not requiring immediate treatment.
- A neurosurgeon can surgically correct the arteriovenous malformation or use catheter based techniques to treat the arteriovenous malformation from within the blood vessel.
- Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a minimally invasive option that can treat your arteriovenous malformation.
Understanding Your Arteriovenous Malformation
Self-education is a powerful way to set your mind at ease when you are dealing with a medical condition. Learning about your arteriovenous malformation (AVM) and the treatment options available in the tri-state area can help you understand what to expect throughout the process, from diagnosis all the way to recovery. By educating yourself, you will be able to communicate more effectively with your doctor and you will have increased confidence as your treatment date approaches.
]The following information will enhance your knowledge about your AVM, as well as the different treatment options available to you. While your doctor will make treatment recommendations based on your individual condition and personal health factors, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the different procedures and when they might be appropriate.
About Arteriovenous Malformation
Your circulatory system is a complex network of arteries and veins, and blood flows through them in a particular pattern. However, an AVM is a tangle of arteries and veins and blood cannot flow through them as it typically would. As a result, pressure can build within the vessel, causing it to rupture.
An AVM can occur anywhere in the body, but it typically occurs within the brain or spinal cord. It is a condition that develops before you are born, and symptoms typically appear before age 50. Research has demonstrated there may be a genetic component to some forms of AVMs, but typically family members of patients with AVMs are not a higher risk to also carry an AVM.
Arteriovenous Malformation Treatment Options
Not every AVM patient will require treatment. However, if your AVM is causing symptoms or your doctor is concerned about potential damage, there are treatment options available in NJ that can meet your individual needs. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that considers your specific condition and personal health factors. What is appropriate for you might not be the same for the next patient, which is why it is important to work with an experienced doctor in the tri-state area who has experience with AVM.
If your AVM is not causing any symptoms and was discovered while imaging for another condition, your doctor may recommend a “watch and wait” approach. Some patients will never require AVM treatment. However, it is important to attend all follow-up visits as scheduled to allow your doctor to properly monitor your condition for any changes.
Surgery – Traditional and Embolization
There are two types of surgery options available in NJ as AVM treatment. The first is traditional surgery, where the neurosurgeon will access the area by performing a craniotomy and then will surgically remove or correct the AVM. You can expect to spend up to a week recovering in the hospital, followed by 6-12 weeks of activity restrictions while you recover at home.
Another surgical option is embolization. Rather than surgically altering the vessels, the neurosurgeon uses a synthetic material to fill the AVM and block blood flow. During embolization, the surgeon makes a small incision in the groin and directs a catheter to the AVM site. A glue-like material is carefully injected. This will help prevent the vessels from rupturing. Following embolization, most patients spend a couple days in the hospital, followed by a brief recovery period at home. Because it is minimally invasive, embolization can be a good choice for patients who are not good surgical candidates.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Another minimally invasive AVM treatment option is Gamma Knife radiosurgery, an advanced form of radiation therapy available to NJ patients. Using Gamma Knife radiosurgery, your neurosurgeon can target and eliminate your AVM without affecting delicate nearby tissues. There is no scalpel, no incision and no hospital stay, and most patients are able to return to normal activities within a day or two.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery can be an excellent treatment option for patients who are unable to undergo surgery because of complicating health conditions, who have an AVM that is difficult to access or who simply prefer a minimally invasive approach. Most patients who are candidates for AVM surgery also qualify for Gamma Knife radiosurgery, as it is a safe and effective AVM treatment option.
Continue Educating Yourself
Wherever you are in the treatment process, it is important you continue to play an active role by educating yourself along the way. Taking the time to learn about your AVM and treatment options helps you better understand what you are going through, reducing some of the stress of managing a medical condition.
You’ve learned some valuable information about the different AVM treatment options available in northern NJ. Continue the discussion with your personal doctor, who knows your individual circumstances and can explain the different treatment options as they relate to your specific case. He or she will answer any questions you may have, helping you feel confident as you move along your personal treatment path.