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Vein of Galen Malformation

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Surgery for a Vein of Galen Malformation

A vein of Galen malformation is a serious diagnosis, and until recently the treatment options were few. New endovascular techniques have improved the outlook for those diagnosed with this condition.

In a procedure called endovascular embolization, a neurosurgeon inserts a catheter through an artery or vein in the groin and guides it up the circulatory system to the site of the vein of Galen malformation, where it delivers a kind of liquid material (known as “glue”) and/or specially designed platinum wires (“coils”) that occlude the abnormal connections between arteries and veins and strop abnormal blood flow to the malformed vessel, thus restoring normal circulation. This relatively new technique is a challenging procedure to perform on infants and small children, and it should be performed by a highly trained, experienced expert in cerebrovascular surgery. (See Doctors Who Treat Vein of Galen Malformation.)

In rare cases, a neurosurgeon may also place a shunt in the head to drain away blocked or excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to relieve hydrocephalus. The shunt redirects CSF into the abdomen, where it is reabsorbed into the body. The majority of individuals with vein of Galen malformations do not require this type of treatment for their hydrocephalus. It is preferred to treat the malformation first in the hopes of avoiding any need for a shunt.

At the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, we understand that having a child diagnosed and treated for a vein of Galen malformation can be both physically and emotionally challenging. We believe that the trust and cooperation built up over the weeks leading up to the surgery is an important part of recovery. Throughout your journey, we will make decisions together to provide you with the most advanced treatments and the best possible quality of life.

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Reviewed by: Srikanth Boddu, MD, MSc
Last reviewed/updated: October 2020