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