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Arteriovenous Malformation

What is an arteriovenous malformation?

An arteriovenous malformation, also called an AVM, is a condition that occurs most frequently in the brain or spine. The brain has a network of arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to the brain and veins that carry the blood back to the heart. An AVM occurs when those arteries and veins become entangled, disrupting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain.

What are the symptoms?

Often an AVM doesn’t cause any symptoms until it ruptures. Sometimes it is detected during tests for other medical conditions. If rupture isn’t the first symptom, some people may experience the following:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty Speaking
  • Headache
  • Numbness in part of the body
  • Seizures
  • Vision loss

How is it diagnosed?

An AVM is usually diagnosed in one of three ways: a CT scan, an MRI, or cerebral arteriography. During cerebral arteriography, the doctor will thread a catheter through your blood vessels from the groin up into the brain. Dye is injected into the brain, and an X-ray is taken, showing a detailed image of the blood vessels.

How is it treated?

Once an AVM is diagnosed, there are a few options for treatment depending on your individual circumstances and the location of the AVM. One option is the surgical removal of the AVM. Endovascular embolization is another option where, using a catheter, a doctor will insert microcoils or a substance to reduce the blow flow to that particular area. A third option involves targeted radiation to rid the brain of the AVM. The course of treatment varies depending on each patient’s individual circumstance. Discuss with your doctor which course of treatment is best for you.