AVM Treaments and Procedures
Treatment depends on the location and size of the AVM and whether there is bleeding or not. Most likey you will have one or more MRIs to determine all the specifics of your AVM.
For those of you out there are a litte apprehensive or even scared about going to your first MRI appointment, I created a small simulator to show what one is like:
The treatment in the case of sudden bleeding is focused on restoration of vital function. Anticonvulsant medications such as phenytoin are often used to control seizure; medications or procedures may be employed to relieve intracranial pressure. Eventually, curative treatment may be required to prevent recurrent hemorrhage. However, any type of intervention may also carry a risk of creating a neurological deficit.
Surgical elimination of the blood vessels involved is the preferred curative treatment for many types of AVM. Surgery is performed by a neurosurgeon who temporarily removes part of the skull (craniotomy), separates the AVM from surrounding brain tissue, and resects the abnormal vessels. While surgery can result in an immediate, complete removal of the AVM, risks exist depending on the size and the location of the malformation. The preferred treatment of Spetzler-Martin grade 1 and 2 AVMs in young, healthy patients is surgical resection due to the relatively small risk of neurological damage compared to the high lifetime risk of hemorrhage. Grade 3 AVMs may or may not be amenable to surgery. Grade 4 and 5 AVMs are not usually surgically treated.
Radiosurgery has been widely used on small AVMs with considerable success. The Gamma Knife is an apparatus used to precisely apply a controlled radiation dosage to the volume of the brain occupied by the AVM. While this treatment does not require an incision and craniotomy (with their own inherent risks), three or more years may pass before the complete effects are known, during which time patients are at risk of bleeding. Complete obliteration of the AVM may or may not occur after several years, and repeat treatment may be needed. Radiosurgery is itself not without risk. In one large study, nine percent of patients had transient neurological symptoms, including headache, after radiosurgery for AVM. However, most symptoms resolved, and the long-term rate of neurological symptoms was 3.8%.
Embolization is the occlusion of blood vessels most commonly with a glue-like substance introduced by a radiographically guided catheter. Such glue blocks the vessel and reduces blood flow into the AVM. Embolization is frequently used as an adjunct to either surgery or radiation treatment. Before other treatments it reduces the size of the AVM while during surgery it reduces the risk of bleeding. However, embolization alone may completely obliterate some AVMs.