Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)
An Arteriovenous Malformation or AVM is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins in the brain which bypasses the capillary system. AVM's are generally believed to develop during fetal development or soon after birth. Although AVMs can develop in different sites, those located in the brain or spine can have widespread effects on the body. However most people with neurological AVMs very few if any significant symptoms and the AVM may not be discovered until after death or during treatment for an unrelated condition.
Many individuals with AVMs do not even know they have the condition. However in a small number of people, there may be symptoms associated with the rupturing of an AVM. When an AVM ruptures it causes bleeding to the brain. Symptoms that are most notable in an individual with AVMs are:
- Progressive weakness or numbness
When an AVM ruptures, it may mimic a stroke in regard to the symptoms. Such as:
- Sudden and severe headache
- Vision loss or blurred vision
- Weakness, numbness or paralysis
- Difficulty communicating
Symptoms may occur at any age but once an individual reaches 50, the AVM tends to stabilize and cause less symptoms. If someone experiences any of the above symptoms they should seek medical attention immediately.
As will all neurological disorders, the diagnosis for an AVM begins with a full medical history and thorough medical exam. Your physician will want to rule out other conditions. The need for further radiological tests may be required and you may need to get a brain CT, MRI or Cerebral Arteriography (Angiography) may be necessary to positively identify the existence of an AVM. Your SCCNS expert will help in determining which tests are necessary to positively diagnose and treat your condition.
Treatment for an arteriovenous malformation will depend on a number of things. Most specifically the size and the location of the abnormal blood vessels. Although medications may be used to treat such symptoms as headaches or seizures, the AVM may need to be removed in order to prevent future rupture.
- Surgical resection: this treatment is relatively safe and effective. During a surgical resection, a small portion of the skull is removed to gain access to the AVM. The AVM is then sealed off with special clips and it is removed from the surrounding brain tissue. The skull bone is then reattached. This type of surgery is usually performed when the AVM can be removed with acceptable risk.
- Endovascular embolization: similar to the treatment for aneurysms, this is done by threading a thin tube through a vein in the groin and up to the brain arteries that is feeding blood to the AVM. A substance is injected to block the vessel and reduce blood flow to the AVM.
- Gamma Knife radiosurgery: this treatment is not actually a surgery at all and does not require open access to the brain and does not cause any blood loss. This treatment delivers focused dosages of radiation to destroy the AVM. SCCNS is proud to be one of the only providers to offer Gamma Knife treatment at the Regional Gamma Knife Center in Upland, CA.