Many medical problems in the brain come down to abnormal blood flow. The brain is picky—it only operates well when the blood flows where it’s supposed to. If blood flow is blocked or misdirected, brain tissue can quickly become damaged.
Occasionally people are born with a tangle of blood vessels in the brain that don’t connect correctly, causing the blood to follow an abnormal path. This is called an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). AVMs often go unnoticed for years, until the abnormal blood flow causes blood vessels to leak or rupture, resulting in pain and damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They can also cause seizures and are often discovered by brain imaging before they bleed.
Dr. Sean Lavine was invited to speak to other surgeons, neurologists, and interventional radiologists about AVMs at the American Heart Association symposium at the 2017 International Stroke Conference. The focus of his talk was the endovascular treatment of AVMs, which prevents ruptures by stopping (embolizing) the flow of blood into the formation. According to Dr. Lavine, “Embolization of AVMs is sometimes curative, but is usually performed in combination with surgical resection to cure an AVM.”
Dr. Lavine threads a small tube called a catheter through an artery in the groin, up through the blood vessels to the AVM in the brain. Once the catheter is in place, Dr. Lavine delivers a glue-like substance that embolizes the abnormal vessels associated with the AVM. Blood can then no longer flow into the formation through the treated vessel.
At the conference, Dr. Lavine described different methods of embolization treatment and shared data on outcomes after using embolization to treat AVMs. He explained that embolization can be used on its own, or it can stabilize the AVM as a first step before surgical removal or treatment with radiation, making these treatments safer and more effective. Dr. Lavine was invited to give the endovascular perspective on the treatment of AVMs, joined by other experts who discussed the surgical and radiosurgical therapies.
Dr. Lavine explained that embolization has an excellent success rate and that it’s a powerful tool doctors can use to get and keep blood flowing just where and how it’s supposed to—which is what Dr. Lavine does best.
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