Arteriovenous Malformations (AVMs)

Arteriovenous Malformations treated in accordance with Emory Radiology
  • An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins of the brain.
  • This is a condition that is usually present from birth and may cause headache, seizure, or bleeding into the brain (hemorrhage).
  • The treatment of AVMs may include surgery, radiosurgery or embolization.

An AVM is a relatively uncommon condition in which there is an abnormal connection between arteries that normally supply brain tissue and veins. AVMs usually appear as abnormal tangles of blood vessels that cause abnormally high flow through the lesion. AVMs can occur either in the brain or the spine and are generally present from birth. Brain AVMs may cause symptoms of headache, seizure or rupture, while spinal AVMs can cause weakness, paralysis or loss of bowel and bladder function. Rupture of an AVM is the most serious problem and results in bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage) or spinal cord. Overall there is approximately a 2% to 4% annual risk of rupture for patients with previously unruptured brain AVMs.

The treatment of AVMs may include surgery, radiosurgery or embolization. Radiosurgery is a method that uses directed radiation on the abnormal vessels to cause them to shrink. This method is most effective for smaller AVMs. Embolization is a method of treating AVMs that places tiny catheters upstream of the AVM and injects materials under X-ray guidance to block the abnormal vessels. These materials can include coils or liquid adhesives and can cause significant reduction of the AVM size. Embolization prior to surgery can decrease blood loss and time required for surgical removal of the AVM. Embolization prior to radiosurgery can increase the likelihood that the AVM will resolve following radiation therapy.

See an Example of AVM Embolization

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