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AVM Embolization

AVM (arteriovenous malformation) embolization reduces the number of abnormal connections between blood vessels that occur in the brain. An AVM causes blood to flow directly from the arteries to the veins without supplying blood to vital tissues. Without a fresh supply of oxygen and other nutrients, brain tissue starts to die off. 

While some AVMs only need monitoring, some need treatment like embolization as a supplement to surgery or radiosurgery to avoid serious symptoms or rupture. At Barnes-Jewish Hospital, our neurosurgery and neurointerventional surgery team is highly skilled at AVM embolization. This procedure is performed by one of our neurointerventional specialists, who are recognized leaders in their field.

Request a call to schedule an appointment with a Washington University neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Why AVM Embolization is Performed

From neurosurgeons to neurointerventional surgeons to stroke neurologists, our experts collaborate to determine if AVM embolization, or endovascular embolization, is the right treatment for your unique case. Sometimes, this is the only necessary treatment. However, embolization usually does not permanently destroy the AVM. It’s typically used to help reduce the AVM size and lower the risk of bleeding before radiosurgery or surgery to remove the AVM. Embolization makes these other treatments safer.

What to Expect from AVM Embolization

Endovascular AVM embolization is a catheter-based procedure that lasts a couple of hours. Neurointerventional surgeons will insert a small, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel, usually in the groin. They will use X-rays during the entire procedure to visualize and guide the catheter through your vessels to the site of the AVM. Then, they will inject a glue-like substance or a coil into the vessels to block blood flow to the AVM and close off the vessel. You will have a sedative to keep you comfortable but awake during the procedure.

Our neurovascular specialists will carefully weigh the risks before recommending endovascular embolization. Barnes-Jewish Hospital is a high-volume neurological center and treats the majority of AVM patients in the St. Louis region. This level of experience benefits our patients through shorter procedures with fewer complications and faster recovery times, especially if your procedure is elective.

Recovery After AVM Embolization

You will spend at least one night in the hospital after AVM embolization. If your AVM has ruptured, you will stay in our specialized, 20-bed neuro-intensive care unit for a few days. The status of your AVM (ruptured or unruptured) will also determine the length of your recovery and when you can return to your normal activities. Full recovery can take up to six months for complex cases.

After AVM embolization, you will have follow-up appointments to ensure that you are recovering smoothly. You may need additional medical imaging to examine the embolization site and plan additional treatment, including AVM surgery to remove the AVM. 

To make an appointment with a Washington University neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 888.994.2545.

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