Arteriovenous Malformations Treatment Using the Gamma Knife

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) New Brunswick offers noninvasive treatment for arteriovenous malformation (AVM) using the Gamma Knife, a radiosurgery treatment method.

What Is Arteriovenous Malformation?

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are defects of the circulatory system that are generally believed to arise during embryonic or fetal development or soon after birth. They are comprised of snarled tangles of arteries and veins. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the body’s cells; veins return oxygen-depleted blood to the lungs and heart. The absence of capillaries—small blood vessels that connect arteries to veins—creates a shortcut for blood to pass directly from arteries to veins.

The presence of an AVM disrupts this vital cyclical process. Although AVMs can develop in many different sites, those located in the brain or spinal cord—the two parts of the central nervous system—can have especially widespread effects on the body.

AVMs of the brain or spinal cord (neurological AVMs) are believed to affect approximately 300,000 Americans. They occur in males and females of all racial or ethnic backgrounds at roughly equal rates.

Treatment Options for AVM

Specific treatment for arteriovenous malformations will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history
  • Type, location and size of the AVM
  • Extent of the condition
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Medication can often alleviate general symptoms such as headache, back pain and seizures caused by AVMs and other vascular lesions. However, the definitive treatment for AVMs is either surgery or focused irradiation therapy such as the Gamma Knife.

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