AVM Treatment: Radiosurgery vs. Traditional Surgery

Understanding the Differences Between AVM Treatments

There is a lot of information out there about different arteriovenous malformation (AVM) treatment options available in NJ. To help keep you from feeling overwhelmed, the following information spells out some of the differences between two options: traditional surgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Whether you are just beginning to learn about your condition or already have your procedure scheduled, educating yourself is a great way to set your mind at ease during the treatment and recovery process.

About Your AVM

In simple terms, an AVM is a tangle of blood vessels that formed incorrectly before you were born. An AVM can occur anywhere within the body but most commonly develops within the brain or spinal cord. The issue with an AVM is that it can cause headaches, seizures or it can impair blood flow, which can be dangerous within the brain. Damage of the vessels can also occur because of the abnormal pressure within the AVM, leading to rupture and hemorrhaging within the brain.AVM Treatment Options

Not everyone with an AVM will require treatment. However, if your doctor feels treatment is in your best interest, two options in the tri-state area are traditional surgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Here are what they both involve and some of the differences.

Traditional Surgery

  • During traditional surgery, your surgeon will use standard surgical methods and a special microscope to physically remove your AVM. This could involve a craniotomy to access the area.
  • You are asleep during AVM traditional surgery.
  • AVM traditional surgery typically resolves your AVM completely and it will not reoccur.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

  • Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiation therapy.
  • Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a minimally invasive procedure. There is no “knife” involved in Gamma Knife radiosurgery.
  • Using nearly 200 individual beams of low-dose radiation, your doctor can target and destroy your AVM without any incisions or scalpels.
  • You are awake during your entire Gamma Knife radiosurgery treatment.
  • Gamma Knife radiosurgery can effectively eliminate your AVM and it does not come back.

Preparing for AVM Treatment

Your doctor will give you specific instructions about how to prepare for your AVM treatment. However, it can be helpful to understand the differences in preparation for traditional AVM surgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery in a general way.

Preparing for Traditional Surgery

  • Because you will be asleep, you will not be able to eat or drink for a period before your surgery, usually beginning the night before.
  • Your doctor may modify your medications before surgery.
  • You will need to prepare for a stay in the hospital, typically up to one week.
  • Following surgery, you will be on a period of activity restrictions. You may need to take time off work, arrange for help around the house and have someone run errands at first.

Preparing for Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

Preparation is minimal for Gamma Knife radiosurgery because it is an outpatient procedure.

  • You may feel tired for a day or two after treatment and may wish to take time off work.
  • Your doctor may modify your medications before treatment, but you will be allowed to eat and drink normally.

AVM Treatment Recovery Time

Your recovery following AVM treatment will be a very personal process, and your doctor will be able to give you the most accurate idea of what to expect. The guidelines below will give you an idea of what many patients experience.

Recovery After Traditional Surgery

  • Immediately after your procedure, you will recover in an intensive-care unit until you stabilize.
  • Most patients spend up to one week recovering in the hospital.
  • When you return home, you will be on activity restrictions limiting strenuous activities and lifting. These restrictions are gradually lifted and typically last around 6 weeks.

Recovery After Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

  • Treatment itself typically lasts 15-75 minutes.
  • There is no hospital stay required for Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Most patients return home within a few hours of completing treatment.
  • You may feel tired at first. Most patients are back to normal activity levels, including work, within a day or two.
  • Some patients will require multiple treatment sessions. However, many people only require a single treatment session.

Continue Learning About Your Options

As you move forward, be sure to ask your personal doctor about the specific differences in AVM treatment options available in NJ. He or she will be able to relate the information here to your exact circumstances, including the location of your AVM and any health conditions you may have. The information here gives you a great jumping-off point for your next conversation. Having a solid understanding of your condition and how it can be treated will help you through the treatment planning stages and give you peace of mind knowing you have made sound choices about your health.

Anthony D’Ambrosio, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.N.S
Anthony D’Ambrosio, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.N.S
Dr. Anthony D’Ambrosio is a board-certified neurosurgeon that specializes in Neurosurgery, Stereotactic Radiosurgery, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery (GKRS) and more. He is the Director of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of the Gamma Knife Program at The Valley Hospital. Dr. D’Ambrosio is an expert in treating patients with trigeminal neuralgia, benign or malignant brain tumors, as well as many other neurological conditions.

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