A grant has been awarded to Dr. Alvaro Villabona our clinical research fellow from the National Brain Appeal Small Acorn Fund for a pilot study which aims to evaluate the potential use of an MRI based method to replace Conventional Catheter Angiography (CCA) for planning of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery of Arterial Venous Malformations (AVMs).

The Gamma Knife Centre at Queen Square is still relatively new, having been open only a couple of years. During that time, under the clinical lead of Mr Neil Kitchen, it has treated over 300 patients with a range of conditions – including benign brain tumours, brain metastases, and vascular malformations – with radiation treatment for the brain. Our centre is also undertaking a research programme actively exploring ways to made Gamma Knife treatment even more effective. Our dedicated researcher, Dr. Villabona, is working on different methods for doing this and one of his projects has been awarded a “Small Acorns” grant from The National Brain Appeal.

Dr. Villabona is exploring ways to make the Gamma Knife treatment run more smoothly and safely for patients’ AVMs. “These are abnormal tangles of blood vessels that are prone to cause brain bleeds and carry a long-term risk of neurological deficit” he explains. “The Gamma Knife is an appropriate treatment option for some AVMs, but in order to be able to see and target the disease the patients need to undergo another procedure called an angiogram first. That means that they need to be admitted to hospital for longer and undergo a relatively invasive procedure which involves potential risks of complications – even though their actual treatment is non-invasive and involves only one treatment session. We want to find a way to obtain adequate pictures of the AVMs in a less invasive way, so we are exploring using magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) for this purpose”.

The National Brain Appeal is dedicated to raising funds for The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and they have done so for more than 30 years. Through this grant they are once again demonstrating their commitment to research and the improvement of patient’s experience of Queen Square and they are also recognizing that small acorns make a difference. Our pilot study will indeed have a big impact and benefit to patients in the long term and we are most grateful to the National Brain Appeal for their support.