Arteriovenous Malformation

Arteriovenous malformations, defects of blood vessels in the brain and spine, can lead to serious complications. You need a skilled neurosurgical team for superior care. At St. Joseph’s Hospital, our neurosurgeons provide expert treatment for arteriovenous malformation.

What is Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)?

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) happens when abnormal clusters of arteries and veins form in the brain or spine. Normally, blood flows from the heart to the brain and spine through arteries. Blood circulates from the arteries through the capillaries, and then back to the heart through the veins.

In an AVM, the arteries connect directly to the veins without first passing through the capillaries. If untreated, AVMs can grow larger and rupture, causing bleeding in the brain. AVMs can lead to permanent brain damage or even death.

What Causes Arteriovenous Malformation?

The causes of AVMs are not fully understood. The condition is usually present at birth (congenital) or shortly after, but it is not inherited. Sometimes, AVMs can develop after injury or trauma to the head or spine.

Symptoms of AVM

Most people with brain AVMs don’t have major symptoms. Those who do may have headaches or seizure, although these symptoms aren’t unique to AVMs. Some common symptoms include:

  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Difficulty with vision, movement and speech
  • Memory problems and confusion
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

How is Arteriovenous Malformation Diagnosed?

Because some symptoms of AVM occur in other conditions, you will need other tests to confirm a diagnosis of AVM and rule out other possible problems. Your doctor may order one or more of the following tests:

  • MRI or CT scans: Imaging test that takes pictures of your brain tissue and arteries to find abnormally formed arteries or bleeding
  • Cerebral angiogram: Test that uses X-rays to look for abnormal blood vessels in your brain
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): Test that evaluates your brain’s electrical activity to rule out epilepsy

Treatments for AVM

At St. Joseph’s Hospital, our primary goal for AVM treatment is to prevent bleeding inside the brain, which can be life threatening. Among the treatment options we offer are:

  • Medications: Drug therapy to manage pain and control seizure
  • AVM resection: Procedures to remove or repair abnormal blood vessels
  • Endovascular embolization: Uses tiny metal coils (embolization coiling) or other substances to cut off blood supply to problematic blood vessels.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery: Radiation therapy that damages vessels in the AVM with minimal damage to nearby, healthy tissue

Learn more about our treatments in the Neurosurgery Program at St. Joseph’s.

Contact Us

For more information or for a physician referral, please call (813) 644-4322.