22-Year-Old Woman Has Life-Saving Gamma Knife Surgery

22 year old Molly Lloyd has undergone Gamma Knife radiosurgery after being diagnosed with a brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Birmingham Live reports that Molly has undergone a total of three emergency surgeries since May, and is now making some signs of progress at hospital in Birmingham.

AVM occurs when an abnormal tangle of blood vessels develops in the brain. It’s a rare but potentially serious condition, because the weakened blood vessels disrupt the flow of oxygen between the heart, lungs, and brain. This leads to an increased risk of stroke, brain damage, and haemorrhage.

Molly was unfortunately unaware she had an AVM until she experienced her first seizure in 2019, aged just 19. She was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where she was diagnosed with a 4cm x 4cm AVM in the frontal lobe of her brain. The location of the AVM in critical in determining the level of risk to the patient, and the treatment they have.

Molly, from Cardiff, was able to return to her studies after treatment, and started university last year. However, in May last year, Molly was rushed to hospital with a massive brain haemorrhage. She suffered a seizure while driving, but luckily her boyfriend was able to take control of the car and guide it safely off the road. 

She underwent treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. In Molly’s case, the AVM is in the region which controls major cognitive functions, such as memory, coordination, planning, and concentration. Despite some of the damage being mitigated by previous Gamma Knife surgery, her condition remains serious.

Since May, Molly has been unable to walk, talk, or feed herself. Her mum, Jenny Lloyd, said: “Her brain will need to rewire itself – she’ll have to learn everything again like a baby. Someone could come [into hospital] the same as Molly and be walking and talking within six months. I have to hold out hope that she will get better.” 

Because of the critical location of the AVM, open neurosurgery was considered too risky. Fortunately, Molly was able to benefit from Gamma Knife Surgery, which is considered a safe and effective alternative, because it mitigates against the risks of general anaesthetic, bleeding, and infection, and of damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

Gamma Knife is also known as stereotactic radiosurgery. It does not involve any incision with a surgical knife. Precisely targeted beams of radiation are directed at the affected area from an external machine, from several directions at once. This procedure disconnects the damaged blood vessels, while leaving the surrounding tissue unharmed.

Jenny explained: “Where it was located would affect her movement and speech, so they didn’t want to go in and cause any trouble. So instead she went to Sheffield for something called gamma knife radiosurgery where they put a frame around her head and gave her tiny beams of radiation. She was incredibly brave.”

Molly is now showing signs of progress, and is able to open her eyes, and respond to questions using communication cards.