Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - 50

F

or Molly Frost, one of the biggest challenges of living with
a rare, life-threatening condition is the feeling of being
alone. Diagnosed with an arteriovenous
malformation (AVM) in her brain in
August 2006, she was constantly in fear
from "not knowing when the time bomb
in my head was going to go off."
After numerous treatments, including
brain surgery, Frost was cured. Even so,
she was grateful when her doctor, UVA
interventional neuroradiologist Avery
Evans, MD, connected her with Holly
Davis, 43-another Virginia woman
with a brain AVM. They communicated
via Facebook and phone calls until last
spring, when UVA Health System staff
facilitated an in-person meeting.
"When you have something so rare
and not well-known, it's a challenge
to find people who can relate to you,"
says Frost, 39, of Richmond, Virginia.
"When I met Holly, I felt comforted
knowing I wasn't crazy for feeling the
way I was feeling."

A Leading Cause of
STROKE IN THE YOUNG

50

W IN TER 2 0 1 7

Long Journey TO A CURE

UVA interventional neuroradiologists
are among the Southeast's leading
experts in embolization to treat AVM.
This procedure involves inserting a
catheter (small thin tube) into an artery
in the upper thigh. The surgeon guides
it through the arteries to the AVM,
where a gluelike substance is inserted to
block the abnormal blood vessels. This
blocks blood flow to the affected veins,
gradually shrinking the AVM.
"These treatments aim to take the
edges of the AVM away and protect
the parts of the brain that are critical for functioning and quality of life,"
Evans explains.
Frost and Davis underwent multiple
embolizations, and Frost also underwent Gamma Knife radiosurgery that
sends focused beams of radiation into
the AVM. Once the AVMs were reduced
in size, brain surgery was a safer option.
Both women are grateful to the medical
team at UVA for their treatments and
for bringing them together.
"The level of care I received at UVA
was unparalleled," Davis says. "I don't
think I would have gotten that anywhere else."
Frost is the co-facilitator of a brain
AVM and aneurysm support group at

a hospital near her home. She and her
family also founded the For Love of
Molly Foundation to raise awareness
and money for AVM research.
"This has been a difficult journey,"
she says. "But at least something positive came out of it. The foundation is
making positive contributions, and I
made a new friend." ■

FAULTY BLOOD
VESSELS AND
STROKE
Brain aneurysms are more common
than AVMs (arteriovenous malformations)-particularly in older
people. These weak, bulging areas
in the artery wall are a leading cause
of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in
the brain), which may lead to brain
damage or death.
UVA Health System interventional
neuroradiologists are national leaders in the treatment of cerebral
aneurysms. They have been involved
in testing numerous new techniques,
including endovascular coiling-a
minimally invasive procedure in
which tiny coils are inserted into the
artery to block blood flow into the
aneurysm while maintaining proper
circulation to the brain. Another
approach, surgical clipping, involves
opening the skull and placing a clip
across the aneurysm. This procedure
is done by a neurosurgeon.

WEBSITE

Stroke Care at the
Highest Level
Find out why it's so important
to seek care at the designated
Comprehensive Stroke Center
at UVA. Learn more at
uvahealth.com/csc.

PHOTOS BY JACKSON SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY

An AVM is an abnormal tangle of blood
vessels in the brain that may be prone
to leaking. Though an AVM is present at
birth, most people don't know they have
one until it ruptures, causing life-threatening complications. These abnormalities
affect about 1 percent of the population
and are a leading cause of stroke in children and young adults.
Even without bleeding, AVMs may
reduce the supply of oxygenated blood
to the brain, causing symptoms such as
speech difficulty, weakness, numbness
and vision loss. The increased pressure
on weakened blood vessels in the brain
also may lead to aneurysms (a weakened, bulging area in the blood vessel).
Frost and Davis were diagnosed with
AVMs within months of each other in
2006. A newlywed at the time, Frost was
at work when she experienced an excruciating headache. Her boss, realizing

something was seriously wrong, drove
her to a hospital, where a brain scan
revealed the ruptured AVM.
A few months later, Davis was traveling home to Lynchburg, Virginia, during
Thanksgiving break. Sitting in the passenger seat as her husband drove along
Interstate 40 near Knoxville, Tennessee,
Davis had an excruciating headache and
went into a coma. Her three young children were in the back seat.
Both suffered hemorrhagic stroke
(caused by bleeding rather than a
blocked blood vessel). For both Frost
and Davis, their AVMs were too large
for surgery at the time. "Surgery at that
point would have been so dangerous as
to be foolhardy," Evans says.


http://www.uvahealth.com/csc

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia

Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2017 - University of Virginia - Contents
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