Arteriovenous Malformations

Radiosurgery Treatment for Arteriovenous Malformation in the Brain

At the Swedish Radiosurgery Center, neurosurgeons use Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery to treat arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the brain. Gamma Knife can target the precise location with such accuracy that it prevents injury to adjacent normal brain tissue.

What is a cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM)?

A cerebral AVM is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins in the brain. AVM also can occur in other parts of the body, such as in the spine. AVM in the brain, however, is particularly risky because an AVM rupture, which allows bleeding into the brain, can cause a stroke.

AVM usually develops before birth and often goes undetected for many years.

Learn more about AVM

Why is Gamma Knife a good treatment option for AVM?

Generally, there are three treatment options for AVM:

  • Surgery to remove the AVM
  • Embolization to plug and stabilize it with a glue-like substance
  • Radiosurgery to reduce the size and the amount of blood flow through the AVM

Treatment frequently includes a combination of two or more of these options. Your treatment will depend on the size and location of the AVM, as well as your overall health, age and medical history.

Gamma Knife is a non-surgical treatment, so there is no general anesthesia or hospital stay. It is particularly effective for AVM smaller than 3 centimeters, and for AVM that are located deep within the brain where surgery is more complicated and risky.

Gamma Knife is so precise it can target the AVM without damaging the surrounding brain tissue.

How does Gamma Knife work for AVM?

The Gamma Knife procedure has several steps that occur on one day, including imaging, treatment planning and treatment. The treatment itself typically takes less than an hour. A unique treatment plan is created for each patient based on images that are taken just before treatment. The plan is used to program the Gamma Knife to send hundreds of beams of radiation from multiple angles and directions at the same time to the precise location of the AVM.

Alone each of those beams of radiation is not strong enough to damage the tissue through which it travels on its way to the target. Where they meet, however, the combined strength is enough to transform the cells of the AVM. Over several months the walls of the AVM begin to thicken or scar. Eventually most vessels completely close, which stops the blood flow through the AVM and prevents future rupture.

Because Gamma Knife is a noninvasive procedure, there is no risk of infection, bleeding or cerebral spinal leakage as there is with surgery.

Learn more about the step-by-step Gamma Knife process

Is Gamma Knife right for you?

Once you have been diagnosed with AVM, you and your doctor will discuss all of your treatment options. In planning your treatment, your doctor will consider your particular situation before making a recommendation.

We invite you to call the Swedish Radiosurgery Center at 206-320-7130 to talk with one of our Gamma Knife specialists if you would like more information or a second opinion.

Read an article by Dr. Eskridge about AVM and Gamma Knife