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Dural arteriovenous fistulas

Dural arteriovenous fistulas (abnormal connections in the spinal cord membrane) can result in lower vein pressure

About

A dural arteriovenous fistula is an abnormal connection that forms between an artery and a vein running over the surface of the spinal cord, or within the coverings of the brain.  When this happens, blood bypasses the capillaries (the tiny vessels that transfer oxygen and nutrients to your body's tissues). This can lead to a number of symptoms.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of Dural arteriovenous fistulas icon plus

    The symptoms of dural arteriovenous fistulas are often split into benign or aggressive symptoms. Aggressive dAVF symptoms are normally brought on by bleeding on the brain or other neurological conditions. They include:

    • seizures, speech or language issues
    • nausea, vomiting and headaches
    • burning or prickling sensations
    • coordination problems
    • facial pain
    • weakness
    • apathy
    • failure to thrive

    Benign dAVF symptoms can include

    • hearing issues and tinnitus
    • vision problems
    • swelling in the eye lining
    • cavernous sinus syndrome
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your HCA UK consultant will discuss your symptoms with you. If they suspect dural arteriovenous fistulas, they may recommend the following diagnostic tests:

    • CT head scan. An imaging test that can produce a detailed image of inside your head and help us to find out if there is blood on the brain.
    • MRI scan. Another imaging test that can help us determine the shape and extent of the fistula.
    • Catheter-based cerebral angiography. A type of X-ray that can help us find fistulas and understand their structure and nature.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    If you've been diagnosed with dural arteriovenous fistulas, your HCA UK consultant will discuss your treatment options with you. These might include:

    • An endovascular procedure (performed by a specialist radiologist). This involves inserting a long, thin tube (catheter) into the fistula and blocking it using a coil or a glue-like substance.
    • Stereotactic radiosurgery. This involves using radiation waves block the fistula's abnormal connection in the blood vessels.
    • Surgery. This involves disconnecting the fistula using surgical techniques. 
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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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