Patient Education Library | Arteriovenous Malformation

Understanding AVMs

A brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels that connect arteries directly to veins in the brain.  An AVM can develop anywhere in your body but occurs most often in the brain or spine. It is believed that AVMs affect less than 1 percent of the population and form accidentally during fetal development.  Some people with brain AVMs experience signs and symptoms, such as headache or seizures.  Once diagnosed, a brain AVM can often be treated successfully to prevent complications, such as brain damage or stroke.

Causes & Risk Factors

We don’t understand what causes AVMs. Some doctors believe that most brain AVMs emerge during fetal development, meaning people who have an AVM were born with it and appear later as the child ages.  Children born with an AVM condition may have a bluish tint to their skin.  This is due to the absence of oxygenated blood circulating through the body.  Occasionally, AVMs form later in life.

Anyone can be born with a brain AVM, but doctors say AVMs are more common in males.  People  probably don’t inherit an AVM from their parents, and they probably won’t pass one on to their children.

Symptoms

If you have an AVM, you may not realize it. In fact, many AVMs cause no problems until it ruptures, resulting in bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage.) But sometimes an AVM causes noticeable physical symptoms including:

  • Buzzing or rushing sounds in the ears
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Seizures
  • Loss of Sensation in Part of the Body
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Vision Changes
  • Facial Paralysis
  • Communication Issues
  • Dizziness
  • Cold or Blue Fingers or Toes

AVM Dangers & Complications

An AVM can keep your brain or your spinal cord from getting enough oxygenated blood. Without enough oxygen, brain tissues weaken or may die off completely. This results in stroke-like symptoms, such as difficulty speaking, weakness, numbness, vision loss or severe unsteadiness.

Some AVMs may get bigger and displace or compress portions of the brain. This may prevent protective fluids from flowing freely around the hemispheres of the brain.If fluid builds up, it can push brain tissue up against the skull (hydrocephalus).

An AVM can also put extreme pressure on the walls of the affected arteries and veins, causing them to become thin or weak. This may result in the AVM rupturing and bleeding into the brain (a hemorrhage), causing stroke and brain damage.  A bleeding AVM is life-threatening and requires emergency medical attention. 

Diagnosis & Treatment for AVM

AVMs are benign, which means they are not cancer. Treatment of an AVM is focused on managing the symptoms and improving the life of the patient. 

AVMs are diagnosed primarily by a CT scan or MRI, and are treated by neurosurgeons through methods including endovascular embolization and gamma knife stereotactic radiosurgery. Treatment for brain AVMs can be symptomatic, and patients should be followed by a neurologist for any seizures, headaches, or focal neurologic deficits.

Comprehensive Care for AVM in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Treatment for arteriovenous malformation varies on the size and type of your AVM, along with the symptoms it may be causing.  The NeuroMedical Center is home to a multi-disciplinary team of neurological specialists highly-experienced in AVM diagnosis and treatment. Our AVM treatment teams consist of neurosurgeons who specialize in endovascular therapy and offer advanced training in the use of minimally-invasive stereotactic techniques and equipment, including the Gamma Knife Icon, used to treat many neurological conditions including AVMs.  These neurosurgeons collaborate with an expert team of neurologists who specialize in the medical management of brain AVMs.  

Ensure that you receive the very best treatment for AVM by choosing The NeuroMedical Center.   Schedule an appointment by calling us today (225) 768-2050 or by requesting an appointment online.