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Arteriovenous malformation

AVM

An abnormal connection or passageway between an artery and vein in your brain where the blood bypasses your capillaries

About

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a term used to describe a complex tangle of blood vessels in your brain with abnormal connections between your arteries and veins. They are almost always present at birth and arise either during very early pregnancy or as part of an inherited condition. They are often not detected until later on. An AVM can interfere with normal blood circulation and, if it bleeds, it can cause severe problems depending on its location.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of arteriovenous malformation icon plus

    Although most AVMs do not cause symptoms, when they do the effects are generally due to bleeding or a seizure. Many are discovered on scans performed for unrelated problems. Other symptoms may include:

    • headache
    • numbness and or weakness on one side of the body
    • speech problems such as muddled words or slurred speech
    • blurred vision or loss of vision
    • confusion
    • balance problems
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your consultant will speak to you about your symptoms and perform a physical examination. They may also request the following tests to confirm a diagnosis:

    • MRI / CT Scan.
    • Angiography. This involves injecting a special dye into your arteries in your brain through a catheter (narrow tube) inserted in your groin under local anaesthetic to make the outline of your blood vessels visible on an X-ray so an arteriovenous malformation can be recognised, if present.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Treatment will depend on the size, location and blood flow to your arteriovenous malformation as well as factors to your specific case. Treatments may include:

    • Embolisation. This aims to block the artery suppling the arteriovenous malformation to reduce blood flow. This may be done prior to surgery with the aim of reducing bleeding during the operation or sometimes as a curative treatment in itself.
    • Gamma Knife. A type of radiation treatment, which has become the treatment of choice for many patients with arteriovenous malformations.
    • Surgery. This is to remove the arteriovenous malformation from your healthy surrounding brain tissue.
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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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