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Updated 21 May 2015

Arteriovenous Malformation

AVM is a congenital disorder characterised by a complex, tangled web of arteries and veins.

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Description

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a congenital disorder characterised by a complex, tangled web of arteries and veins. An AVM may occur in the brain, brainstem or spinal cord.

Causes

Arteriovenous malformation is caused by an abnormal development of blood vessels in the brain, brainstem or spinal cord.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of AVM include haemorrhaging (bleeding), seizures, headaches and neurological problems such as paralysis or loss of speech, memory or vision. The prevailing symptoms will depend on the anatomical position of the AVM in the body.

Treatment

There are three general forms of treatment for AVM:

  • Embolisation, which involves closing off the vessels of the AVM by injecting glue into them (embolisation is often used before surgery)
  • Surgery (removal of the AVM)
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery, which involves focusing radiation on the AVM

Prognosis

Arteriovenous malformations that haemorrhage can lead to serious neurological problems, and sometimes death. However, some people have AVMs that never cause problems.

Reviewed by Dr J. Carr

 
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