AVM Treatment Options
Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are abnormal, snarled tangles of blood vessels that cause multiple irregular connections between the arteries and veins. While they are most common in the spinal cord and the brain, they can develop elsewhere in the body. It is unclear why AVMs form. Most often they are inherited, but they can sometimes appear sporadically. ATMs can cause seizures and severe headaches as well as muscle weakness, paralysis, dizziness, vision loss, back pain, confusion, and more. Most dangerously, AVMs can cause significant neurological damage and brain hemorrhaging. Orange County CyberKnife and Radiation Oncology Center offers the most comprehensive array of radiation treatments in Southern California including the CyberKnife Radiosurgery System, an effective treatment for AVMs.
How are AVMs and other vascular lesions treated?
There are several treatment options for patients with AVM, but each involves various dangers depending on the individual. A hemorrhage from an untreated AVM can cause serious neurological damage or death, leading many specialists to recommend surgery. However, surgery on any part of the central nervous system carries risk of serious complications or death. An AVM grading system developed in the mid-80s can help healthcare professionals estimate the risk of surgery based on the size of the AVM, location in the brain and surrounding tissue involvement, and any leakage. Treatment options include:
- Medication. Although medicines can often lessen general symptoms, such as headache, back pain, and seizures, the definitive treatment for AVMs is either surgery or focused radiation therapy.
- Conventional surgery – Surgery involves entering the brain or spinal cord and removing the central portion of the AVM, including the fistula. This surgery is most recommended when an AVM is located in a superficial portion of the brain or spinal cord and is relatively small in size. AVMs located deep inside the brain generally cannot be approached through conventional surgical techniques because there is too great a possibility that functionally important brain tissue will be damaged or destroyed.
- Endovascular embolization – For this treatment, a surgeon guides a catheter through the arterial network until the tip reaches the site of the AVM, then injects a fast-drying glue-like substance, fibered titanium coils or a tiny balloon) that will travel through blood vessels and create an artificial blood clot in the center of an AVM. Since embolization usually does not permanently obliterate the AVM, it is usually used in conjunction with surgery or to radiosurgery to reduce the blood flow through the AVM and make the surgery safer.
- CyberKnife Radiosurgery – A non-invasive therapeutic approach often used to treat small AVMs that haven’t ruptured is radiosurgery, in which a beam of highly focused radiation is aimed directly on the AVM and damages the walls of the blood vessels making up the lesion. Orange County CyberKnife utilizes the newest technology in radiosurgery – the CyberKnife Radiosurgery System – to effectively treat AVMs. CyberKnife combines a flexible robotic arm with state-of-the-art imaging system to pinpoint the exact location of the AVM minimizing damage to surrounding tissue or organs. The flexibility allows CyberKnife to reach AVMs at hundreds of different angles. Over the course of the next several months, the irradiated vessels gradually degenerate and eventually close, leading to the resolution of the AVM.
Find Out More About CyberKnife Treatment of AVMs
If you want to learn more about the CyberKnife Radiosurgery System at Orange County CyberKnife and how it can treat your AVM, reach out to our medical oncology experts by phone at (714) 962-7100 or by completing our convenient online appointment form. Our cancer specialists are ready to answer all of your questions in detail, and you can trust the specialists at Orange County to provide individualized treatment for your AVM. Call today!