Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

There are several potential treatment options for brain AVM. Your doctor will determine the most appropriate treatment for your condition, depending on the size and location of the abnormal blood vessels.

Medications may also be used to treat related symptoms, such as headaches or seizures.

Other treatments may include:

  • Surgical removal (resection). Surgical treatment of a small brain AVM is relatively safe and effective. In this procedure, your neurosurgeon removes part of your skull temporarily to gain access to the AVM.

    Your neurosurgeon, aided by a high-powered microscope, seals off the AVM with special clips and carefully removes it from surrounding brain tissue. Your surgeon then reattaches the skull bone, and closes the incision in your scalp.

    Resection is usually done when the AVM can be removed with little risk of hemorrhage or seizures. AVMs that are in deep brain regions carry a higher risk of complications. In these cases, your doctor may recommend other treatments.

  • Endovascular embolization. In this procedure, your doctor inserts a long, thin tube (catheter) into a leg artery and threads it through blood vessels to your brain using X-ray imaging.

    Your surgeon positions the catheter in one of the feeding arteries to the AVM, and injects small particles of a glue-like substance to block the artery and reduce blood flow into the AVM.

    Endovascular embolization may be performed before other treatments to reduce the size of the AVM, before surgery to reduce the chance of bleeding during the procedure or alone as a treatment. In some large brain AVMs, endovascular embolization may reduce stroke-like symptoms by redirecting blood back to normal brain tissue.

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery. This treatment uses precisely focused radiation to destroy the AVM. The radiation causes the AVM vessels to slowly clot off in one to three years following the treatment.

    This treatment is most appropriate for small AVMs and for those that haven't caused a life-threatening hemorrhage.

If you have few or no symptoms or if your AVM is in an area of your brain that's hard to treat, your doctor may prefer to monitor your condition with regular checkups.

Mar. 21, 2014