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Vascular Malformation: Frequently Asked Questions

What are emerging AVM treatment trends at Swedish Medical Center?

Swedish Medical Center’s Dr. Wayne Yakes pioneered an innovative, non-invasive surgical treatment for AVM’s more than a decade ago and that treatment is still the gold standard for an AVM cure today. Relying on a series of ethyl alcohol injections near the site of the AVM, Dr. Yakes has had outstanding success with patients from around the globe. Other physicians and medical centers continue to "treat" AVMs with complicated surgery, glue or other liquid agents, but those methods do not deliver a cure. By using Dr. Yakes alcohol method, patients never undergo invasive surgery to remove the AVM.

What is the role of ethyl alcohol in Swedish Medical Center’s AVM treatment?

Swedish Medical Center Vascular Malformation Center Director Wayne Yakes, M.D. has conducted years of intensive research and trials in working toward a cure for AVMs. As such, Dr. Yakes’s work has established that the use of 98 percent ethyl alcohol destroys AVMs, eliminating the need for complex surgery and improving his patients’ quality of life. Often, Dr. Yakes’s ethyl alcohol provides a better and permanent solution to a devastating alternative facing some patients – amputation. Dr. Yakes injects the ethyl alcohol in the areas near the AVM over a period of time, as determined by the severity of the lesion. Slowly, but surely, the ethyl alcohol dissolves the snarled AVM. The permanence achieved through Dr. Yakes’ use of ethyl alcohol for attacking AVMs is now the norm. In fact, Dr. Yakes has cured peripheral AVMs in excess of 80 percent of the time. In an AVM fistula, which is congenital and not traumatic, the cure rate 100 percent. In an acquired AVM fistula, the cure rate is 90 percent. Even the cure rate for brain AVMs, which have historically been less than five percent, is now greater than 60 percent, thanks to Dr. Yakes’s treatment plan.

How did Dr. Yakes become a worldwide AVM authority and catch the eye of the global medical community?

Dr. Yakes’s pioneering approach and success in curing AVMs with ethyl alcohol injections has attracted both the medical community and patients from around the world. Dr. Yakes’s decisive treatment modality has been published in dozens of the top medical journals and his patients are the first to offer testimonials. He published the world’s first patient profile of the use of alcohol to cure AVM’s in the 1980’s. The case involved a patient who was an active duty Army sergeant about to lose his pelvis and leg to amputation. His AVM was causing his heart to work overtime, and if left untreated, would eventually lead to his death. Physicians had tried standard methods to treat his AVM, using glues and other particles. That approach caused the young man even more distress. Dr. Yakes administered his non-invasive surgical, ethyl alcohol treatment to the man and it was entirely successful. That was the world’s first case, and the patient ended up retiring from his military career some twenty years later.

What are common myths or misconceptions with AVM?

The most common misconception is that they cannot be fixed. Frequently, doctors tell patients this and prepare them to live with the pain and discomfort for their entire lives. Some literature wrongly confirms this, as well. To the contrary, Dr. Yakes has proven that AVMs can, in fact, be eradicated permanently.

How do AVM patients know where to turn for help?

Many times patients do not know where to turn. First, patients with AVMs are often misdiagnosed for long periods of time and bounced around from clinician to clinician before they finally learn they have an AVM. Upon proper diagnosis, they’re often referred to surgeons or other physicians who rarely have the expertise to recognize, let alone treat, AVMs. With the advent of the Internet and Swedish Medical Center’s Vascular Malformation Center, help is near. In fact, help is here.

What resources does Dr. Yakes rely upon to further his expertise?

Quite simply, the best information is learning what doesn’t work in treating an AVM. Dr. Yakes has long known that glues, complex surgery and other liquid agents will not effectively and permanently cure an AVM. Despite that knowledge, some physicians who don’t equal Dr. Yakes’s specialized expertise continue to try those ineffective techniques. Those medical professionals who are aggressive in serving their patients will often refer them to Swedish Medical Center and Dr. Yakes. In fact, many patients come from around the globe to seek the cure Dr. Yakes offers.

How does a patient's quality of life improve once they are successfully cured of an AVM?

Typically, it’s a dramatic improvement because the patient is no longer suffering from the pain and debilitation which has hindered their quality of life. For example, Dr. Yakes once cured a young college girl with a shoulder AVM that had gone undiagnosed for years and caused considerable pain. Upon Dr. Yakes’ successful ethyl alcohol treatment, this woman is now a mother of three children and looks back on her AVM as a thing of the past.

What about Swedish Medical Center makes it an ideal place for Dr. Yakes to practice?

Thanks to Dr. Yakes's world renown expertise in developing a cure for AVMs, Swedish Medical Center has invested in the staff and infrastructure to arm Dr. Yakes with the resources he needs to see patients from around the world. Dr. Yakes, who pioneered his AVM treatment protocol while stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, discovered that Swedish Medical Center had every specialist and subspecialist he would ever need in his practice - specialists that back up the work of Dr. Yakes to deliver comprehensive patient care. The medical expertise at Swedish Vascular Malformation Center is so capable that no one is ever declined treatment due to a complex AVM problem.

Why is AVM so frequently misdiagnosed, and what is it commonly misdiagnosed as?

Malformations of any type cause problems within an anatomy and may mimic a variety of other diagnoses. Only specialized physicians are skilled at recognizing them because they present so infrequently.

What is Dr. Yakes’s affiliation with the Colorado Neurological Institute?

Dr. Yakes has been affiliated with the Colorado Neurological Institute (CNI) since joining Swedish Medical Center. He was one of the first neurointerventionists at Swedish, working closely with Lee Krouth, M.D., a neurosurgeon who saw the value of endovascular techniques for treating neurological disease. Specifically, Dr. Krouth perfected a less invasive method of using GDC coils for treating aneurisms inside the brain. Working together, the two brought the FDA-approved device and method to the CNI. Because of the support he receives from Swedish Medical Center, the CNI remains a close and trusted partner in his work to provide advanced and cutting-edge cures AVMs.