Understanding Your AVM
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) or already have a procedure scheduled, it can be helpful to understand the different AVM treatment options available in the tri-state area. Educating yourself about your condition and the ways it can be treated will help you know what to expect as you move through the process. The following information outlines some common AVM treatment options to help you better understand each.
An AVM is essentially a tangle of blood vessels that prevents the normal flow of blood to tissues. Your AVM formed as your body was developing before you were born. These tangles can happen anywhere in the body but are most common in the brain.
Not all patients will require AVM treatment. However, an AVM located in the brain can starve the tissues of oxygen and also have the potential to rupture, increasing the risk of stroke and hemorrhage. Your doctor will use diagnostic imaging to evaluate your AVM and determine which treatment option is most appropriate for your individual condition.
Once you are diagnosed with an AVM, it is vitally important to maintain open communication with your doctor. This will ensure you understand the treatment options available to you in NJ and why your doctor has made certain recommendations. While your personal doctor will be the best person to explain your individual AVM treatment options, some of the most common treatments are outlined below.
AVM Treatment Options: Embolization
Embolization is a surgical procedure used to block the flow of blood through your AVM. This does not remove the AVM, but it does reduce the risk of the vessels rupturing. During this procedure, the surgeon will insert a catheter in an artery in your thigh. The surgeon uses x-ray imaging to guide the catheter to the site of your AVM. A special glue-like substance is injected to fill the blood vessels, the catheter is removed, and the incision site is closed.
AVM Treatment Options: Surgery
If you are a good surgical candidate and your AVM is in an accessible area, your doctor may recommend traditional surgery to correct your AVM. This will often require a craniotomy to access the area. During the procedure, the surgeon removes a small section of the skull if necessary, then physically removes the AVM. The piece of bone is replaced and the incision site is closed with sutures or staples. Following AVM surgery, most patients spend a few days recovering in the hospital before spending approximately 6 weeks recovering at home.
AVM Treatment Options: Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is not actually a surgery, but an advanced form of radiation therapy that can be used to eliminate your AVM. This can be an excellent treatment option for patients who are not good surgical candidates, have an AVM in an inaccessible area or patients who simply prefer a noninvasive approach. Gamma Knife radiosurgery uses nearly 200 individual beams of low-dose radiation to treat an area as small as 0.15 mm – the width of one human hair.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery takes place in an outpatient setting and does not require a hospital stay. Because of the ability to treat just your AVM without damaging healthy adjacent structures, side effects are typically mild and brief. Most patients are able to return to normal activity levels within a day or two.
Find an AVM Specialist
The AVM treatment options outlined above are meant to give you a general idea of what is available to NJ patients. Your doctor will make treatment recommendations based on your individual case, including your overall health factors and the size and location of your AVM. One of the most effective ways to ensure you are receiving the most effective treatment for your specific condition is to work with an AVM specialist within the tri-state area.
If you have concerns about the treatment options that have been recommended to you, be sure to seek out a second opinion. It is important you have confidence in your AVM treatment options that have been presented to you. If something does not seem right or if you simply need confirmation of the treatment plan that has been presented to you, it is important to go ahead and get a second opinion. Knowing that your care is in the hands of a specialist will help you rest easy as your treatment date approaches.