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Arteriovenous Malformation


What is an arteriovenous malformation?

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins. Blood flows too quickly from the arteries and pushes on the walls of the veins. This can damage or weaken the veins and cause them to bulge and get twisted. An AVM that has not burst usually causes no symptoms. If it bursts, blood will leak into surrounding tissue, and may cause a stroke.

How is an AVM diagnosed?

An AVM that has not burst may be found only when your healthcare providers are doing tests for other conditions. Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical conditions and examine you. You may also need any of the following tests. You may be given contrast dye to help arteries and veins show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • An angiogram is used to check for problems with blood flow in your brain. X-rays are taken as contrast dye goes into blood vessels in your brain.
  • A CT or MRI scan may be used to take pictures of blood vessels and tissue in your brain. You may be given contrast dye before the pictures are taken. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is an AVM treated?

  • Surgery may be needed to repair or remove your AVM, repair burst blood vessels, or remove blood from your brain. Your healthcare provider will use the size, location, and depth of the AVM to decide whether surgery is right for you.
  • Endovascular embolization may be the only treatment for your AVM. Sometimes it is done before surgery or radiation to make the AVM smaller and easier to treat. A catheter (tube) is put into a large blood vessel in your groin, and guided up to the AVM in your brain. Dye and an x-ray machine may be used to locate the AVM. Healthcare providers use the catheter to put chemicals, metal coils, or plastic beads in the AVM to stop the blood flow to it.
  • Radiation therapy , also called radiosurgery, uses x-ray machines, such as a gamma knife, to treat the AVM. You may have to go back several times to complete this therapy.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your blood pressure is higher than you were told it should be.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Part of your face droops or is numb
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You have chest pain that spreads to your arms, jaw, or back.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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