An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a vascular abnormality between the veins and arteries of the vascular system. This is a congenital disorder (meaning one is born with them), but it is not known to be a hereditary disease. Normally capillaries exchange blood between the veins and arteries of the vascular system, but with an AVM, the capillaries are bypassed and instead there is a tangle of veins and arteries.
At NSPC, we specialize in treating AVMs of the spinal cord and brain.
Causes and Symptoms of Arteriovenous Malformations of the Brain
Researchers have not definitively concluded what the causes of AVMs are, but suspect that AVMs of the brain usually occur during fetal development and sometimes as a result of spine or brain trauma.
Some cerebral AVMs don’t have any symptoms, and many don’t have symptoms until they rupture. An AVM that hasn’t ruptured, may have symptoms particular to its location:
vision problems if the AVM is in the brain’s visual areas
muscle weakness or paralysis of arms or legs if the AVM is the motor control area
If an arteriovenous malformation in the brain ruptures, an intracranial hemorrhage leading to a stroke can result. Please seek emergency medical treatment right away if you have ruptured AVM (or stroke) symptoms:
numbness in parts of the body
numbness or tingling
An untreated cerebral AVM can rupture and lead to a severe or fatal stroke. A small percentage of AVMs cause life-threatening, neurological problems. Talk with an experienced neurospecialist about your risks and treatment options.
Diagnosis of Arteriovenous Malformation
Since many AVMs don’t have symptoms, they are often diagnosed as part of investigating another condition. Typically, AVMs are diagnosed using an MRI. AVMs can also be seen on CT scans or angiograms. Also, cerebral AVMs can sometimes be associated with brain aneurysms, which carry their own related risks.
Treatments for Arteriovenous Malformations
At NSPC, we offer many different spinal cord and brain AVM treatment options. Most of the time, AVMs can be treated with minimally invasive techniques. Arteriovenous malformation treatments can include surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, endovascular embolization, observation or a combination of these treatments. Our group has specialty experience with all the modalities of brain and spinal cord avm treatment. We look at each individual’s health history along with the size, location and make-up of the AVM to help you determine the best treatment option.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery for Arteriovenous Malformations
Stereotactic Radiosurgery causes the abnormal blood vessels to clot over time, reducing the risk of bleeding. Stereotactic Radiosurgery for AVMs is a one-day, super-targeted radiation treatment that will most often cure the AVM and cause all of its arteries to close. If, after a time, the AVM is still present, the treatment can be repeated. This state-of-the-art procedure is particularly useful for AVMS that are difficult to reach with traditional open surgery.
Embolization for Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformations
Embolization is a minimally invasive neuroendovascular procedure to treat AVMs. One of our board-certified expert cerebrovascular neurosurgeons inserts a catheter (a long, thin, flexible tube) into a leg artery, guides it through to the brain using fluoroscopic imaging and injects materials, such as glue or a soft metal coil, to help close off the AVM in the brain.
Resection of Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformation
Alternatively, we may recommend removing the AVM surgically, especially if the AVM is small and located on or near the surface of the brain. In a resection of cerebral arteriovenous malformation procedure, the patient is under general anesthesia. The neurosurgeon first performs a craniotomy to open the skull, then opens the dura (membrane covering the brain), and removes the abnormal spaghetti-like tangle of enlarged blood vessels.
Our prestigious medical care facilities in the Long Island and New York areas provide first-class treatment of cerebral arteriovenous malformations. Our skilled cerebrovascular neurosurgeons are experienced in providing top-notch minimally invasive procedures to treat AVMs of the brain and spine.