An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a tangled mass of blood vessels whereby oxygen-rich blood in an artery passes too quickly to the vein, so the necessary transfer of oxygen to nearby tissues is disrupted.
When the circulatory system is working normally, the arteries deliver oxygenated blood from the heart to the brain. Once the oxygen has been delivered throughout the body, the veins then deliver the oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart and lungs for more oxygen.
But in an AVM, the blood vessels involved may eventually burst. If an AVM bursts in the person’s brain, it can cause a brain hemorrhage or a stroke.
Let’s learn more about AVMs and what treatment options are available.
What Causes an AVM?
The cause of AVMs is not clear. Many people who have an AVM are born with it, but this condition can also form later in life.
AVMs do not seem to have a clear genetic component, as they are rarely passed down within a family. AVMs are more common in males than in females.
An AVM most often occurs in the brain or the spinal cord. However, it can also occur anywhere else in the body, particularly in the kidneys, lungs, or skin.
What Are the Symptoms of an AVM?
Most AVMs do not produce any symptoms. AVMs are most often discovered after a brain scan to diagnose a completely different health issue. They’re also commonly found after blood vessels rupture and cause a brain hemorrhage (brain bleed).
In fact, in about half of all brain AVMs, hemorrhage is the first sign. Some people with brain AVMs experience symptoms, which vary depending on the size of the AVM and where it’s located in the brain.
Symptoms can include:
- Severe headaches
- Muscle weakness
- Partial numbness
- Vision loss
- Difficulty speaking
- Severe unsteadiness
What Can Be Done for Arteriovenous Malformation?
Once diagnosed, a brain AVM must be treated to prevent serious complications, such as a stroke or brain damage. There are several treatment options for AVMs, such as embolization, surgery, and radiosurgery.
Embolization is when the doctor injects a liquid adhesive material into the AVM in order to block it off. Surgery aims to remove the AVM altogether.
If embolization was unsuccessful or if the AVM is difficult to remove surgically, then CyberKnife radiosurgery is an excellent option.
How Does CyberKnife Treat an AVM?
CyberKnife delivers high doses of radiation in order to shrink the AVM, thus reducing the long-term risk of AVM bleeding. It utilizes computer-controlled robotics and image-guidance to deliver multiple beams of high-energy radiation from many directions to the site.
The precision technology of CyberKnife tracks and detects even the smallest movement, automatically correcting the delivery of radiation beams to the exact site of treatment with little or no adverse effect on the surrounding tissue.
During this outpatient treatment, the CyberKnife machine moves slowly around you, but you won’t feel anything. You can bring music to listen to during your treatment.
CyberKnife requires no anesthesia, because it is completely noninvasive. Most patients require only one treatment and experience only minimal side effects, if any. Upon completing your treatment, you will schedule follow-up appointments with your doctor.
Who Can Help Treat My AVM?
If you notice any symptoms of an AVM, such as severe headaches or seizures, seek immediate medical attention. A bleeding brain AVM requires emergency medical attention – it could be the difference between life and death.
If you have been diagnosed with brain or spinal arteriovenous malformation, it is absolutely essential to know and understand all of your treatment options. The board-certified physicians at the CyberKnife Center of Miami offer patients a painless alternative to surgery.
To make an appointment, give us a call at (800) 204-0455 or contact us online. We look forward to helping you live a full, healthy life.