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Arteriovenous Malformations

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a complex network of abnormal blood vessels in the brain or spine, where arteries connect directly to veins instead of through a network of tiny capillaries. This abnormal blood flow can lead to potential complications such as rupture and bleeding (hemorrhage), which can cause a stroke or other neurological problems.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Many people with AVMs have no symptoms, and their AVMs are discovered incidentally during treatment for an unrelated medical condition. When symptoms do occur, they can vary greatly depending on the location of the AVM. Common symptoms may include headaches, seizures, or neurological problems such as muscle weakness or paralysis, loss of coordination, difficulties with speech, or visual disturbances.

Diagnosis typically involves imaging studies such as CT scans, MRI, or angiography to visualize the abnormal blood vessels.

Treatment Options

The goal of AVM treatment is to prevent hemorrhage while preserving or improving neurological function. The treatment decision is complex and depends on various factors, including the patient’s age, the location and size of the AVM, the patient’s symptoms, and the overall health of the patient.

Options for treatment include:

  1. Surgery: This is considered when the AVM is in an accessible location and the patient is in suitable health.
  2. Radiosurgery: This treatment uses focused radiation to target the AVM, causing the abnormal blood vessels to gradually close off over time.
  3. Embolization: This is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a glue-like substance to block the abnormal blood vessels.

In some cases, a combination of these treatments may be used.