What is an Arteriovenous Malformation?
Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, usually in the brain or spine. The arteries are responsible for taking oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the brain and veins carry the oxygen-depleted blood back to the lungs and heart. A brain AVM disrupts this vital process. An AVM can occur anywhere in the body, but brain and spinal AVMs present substantial risks when they bleed. The cause of brain AVMs is not known and many believe that they are present at birth.
A brain AVM may not cause any symptoms until the AVM ruptures, resulting in bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage). In about half of all brain AVMs, hemorrhage is the first sign.
In people without hemorrhage, signs and symptoms of a brain AVM may include:
- Muscle weakness or paralysis
- Loss of coordination
- Difficulties carrying out organizational tasks
- Visual disturbances
- Language problems
- Abnormal sensations such as numbness, tingling, or spontaneous pain
- Memory deficits
- Mental confusion
Because these symptoms may overlap with those of other conditions, it is important to get the correct diagnosis to find the right treatment. Make an appointment with your primary care physician if you are experiencing persistent signs and symptoms that concern you.
Treatment options for AVMs depend on their size and location in the body. One treatment that is effective for many AVMs is the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System. CyberKnife is a noninvasive treatment that uses a precisely-targeted beam of radiation to damage the walls of the blood vessels and close the AVM. CyberKnife uses some of the most advanced medical technology in the world, combining state-of-the-art imaging systems with a precise robotic arm to guide radiation with sub-millimeter accuracy. Such accuracy is critical for preserving as much brain function as possible. After the procedure, the vessels will gradually degenerate over a period of months, eventually closing the AVM, resolving the issue, and eliminating the risk of hemorrhage or stroke.
A primary advantage of CyberKnife over surgical removal is that radiosurgery is not invasive, does not require anesthesia or a hospital stay, and does not carry the risks of open surgery. Moreover, some AVMs are located in areas of the brain that cannot be treated with conventional surgery. In those cases, radiosurgery may be the only feasible treatment option. CyberKnife also differs from other radiosurgery systems in that it does not require a rigid metal frame screwed to the patient’s skull for targeting lesions and immobilizing patients. The CyberKnife achieves highly accurate targeting with computer imaging that continuously updates the tumor location and, therefore, eliminates the need for a metal frame.
- Outpatient procedure, no anesthesia or hospitalization required
- Noninvasive, no incisions needed
- Typically pain-free treatment
- Targets the AVM with pinpoint accuracy
- Enables clinicians to maximize and conform the dose to the AVM
- Little to no recovery time and almost immediate return to your normal daily activities
- Minimal, if any, side effects due to pinpoint precision of high-dose radiation delivery