Arteriovenous Malformation | AVM Circulatory Health Portland
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Diagnosis / Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)

What is Arteriovenous Malformation?

Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a condition that affects the blood vessels in your circulatory system. In the human body, arteries carry oxygenated blood from your heart to your brain, while veins carry deoxygenated blood from the brain back to the heart. If you suffer from AVM, it means that the veins and arteries are tangled, interfering with your body’s ability to properly circulate blood.

The circulatory system is composed of arteries, veins and capillaries. The job of the capillaries is to connect the arteries and veins. In the case of an AVM, the arteries and veins are connected directly, which causes the arteries to divert blood directly to the veins and bypass the brain tissue that needs that blood.

Arteriovenous malformations are rare, and the cause is unknown. They are congenital conditions, meaning that they are present from birth. They can occur anywhere in the body, but are found most often in the brain or spinal cord.

Symptoms of AVM

Symptoms of an arteriovenous malformation vary, depending on the size and location of the AVM, as well as the size of the blood vessels affected by the AVM. Most people who have an arteriovenous malformation in their brain tend to have few symptoms, which means that their AVM may go unnoticed and therefore undiagnosed until life-threatening symptoms appear, including:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Bleeding on the brain, most often a subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Neurological issues, such as numbness, weakness or tingling concentrated on one side of the body

If you suffer from an AVM in your spinal cord or limbs, you may experience:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Temporary limb paralysis

These symptoms can be a sign of an urgent medical issue stemming from AVM. AVM prevents the tissues around it from getting the oxygen required to thrive, which can weaken the affected arteries and veins, and eventually cause them to rupture. A ruptured AVM in the brain can result in a brain hemorrhage, brain damage, or even a fatal stroke.

Diagnosis and Treatment of AVM

The greatest danger posed by an arteriovenous malformation is the potential for hemorrhaging, therefore obtaining a correct diagnosis and undergoing appropriate treatment is vital. The most effective way to diagnose an AVM, especially one located in the brain, is by performing a CT scan or an MRI scan on your brain. Not only can these tests detect the AVM, but they can provide information to your doctor about the size, location, and whether there is any bleeding. In some cases, a cerebral angiogram may be necessary in order for the doctor to identify the type of AVM, so that they can determine what treatment will be most beneficial. Once you have been correctly diagnosed, an AVM can often be successfully treated, reducing or preventing future complications.

There are several treatments available, each of which depends on the size, type and location of the AVM. When deciding if your condition is treatable, your doctor will consider these factors, as well as whether the AVM is in an area of your brain that is easily accessed for treatment. Some of the treatment options for an AVM include medication, surgery, and interventional neuroradiology, all of which can be effective depending on the severity of your condition.

If you have been diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, call IVC today at 503-612-0498 to schedule an appointment with one of our team of experienced and professional interventional radiologists.

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