San Diego Student Returns to College Weeks After Lifesaving AVM Surgery

A University of San Diego college senior will return to college courses this week, just a month after undergoing a critical and complex brain surgery at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix to treat a life threatening and rare brain malformation.

Colby Bishop, 22, was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) after experiencing a seizure and being found unconscious by a university professor on his college campus in June. The AVM, an abnormal tangle of arteries and veins in the brain with high blood flow through it, was the size of a tangerine. Without surgery, it could have ruptured at any time and caused paralysis or death.

Michael Lawton, MD
Barrow President and CEO

Because the AVM was both large and located on the motor strip of the brain, the surgery was deemed high risk and San Diego doctors referred Bishop to Dr. Michael Lawton, president and CEO of Barrow Neurological Institute, for surgery. Dr. Lawton is considered one of the world’s top brain surgeons and is known for treating the riskiest and most complex of neurological diseases. Barrow, known throughout the world for providing cutting-edge treatment for people with brain and spine disorders, performs more brain surgeries than any other hospital in the United States.

“The brain condition Colby had is incredibly rare and occurs in less than 1 percent of the population,” says Dr. Lawton. “AVMs are known to be very difficult to treat and can cause debilitating damage if left untreated and a rupture occurs.”

Bishop underwent a nine-hour brain surgery at Barrow on June 18, where during the operation, a section of the AVM ruptured spontaneously. Dr. Lawton and his team of surgeons were able to successfully treat the rupture and completely eliminate the AVM. Bishop suffered no serious side effects and was released from the hospital just days after surgery before spending a week undergoing neuro-rehabilitation at Barrow.

“I was certainly in the right place at the right time when the AVM ruptured,” says Bishop. “I’m incredibly lucky and grateful to have had the most skilled neurosurgical team in the world operate on me.”

Doctors are calling Bishop’s recovery remarkable.

I’m incredibly lucky and grateful to have had the most skilled neurosurgical team in the world operate on me.

-Colby Bishop, Barrow AVM Patient

“For Colby to have recovered as quickly as he has and return to school so soon after surgery is really tremendous,” says Dr. Lawton. “I’m thrilled at how well he is doing. His classmates at college won’t ever be able to tell he just had brain surgery.”

Bishop, who is majoring in electrical engineering, is looking forward to returning to school and setting his sights on graduating in December.

“I’m relieved to be able to start school and focus on my future without ever again having to worry about a ticking time bomb in my brain,” says Bishop. “I feel incredibly thankful.”