Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are tangles of abnormal blood vessels that can form wherever arteries and veins exist, anywhere in the body. AVMs of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) are the most serious.

Symptoms of arteriovenous malformations

In many cases, AVMs don’t cause problems. If symptoms do exist, they will vary from person to person, depending on the size and site of the AVM.

AVMs in the brain may cause:
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Loss of movement on one side of the body
  • Weak muscles
  • Problems with certain movements
  • Loss of coordination, mainly when walking
  • Sudden, severe back pain
  • Speaking problems
  • Vision problems
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion or thinking problems

Serious complications of bleeding can lead to:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Pressure inside the skull—encephalitis
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Causes of arteriovenous malformations

The cause of AVMs is unknown.

Risk factors for arteriovenous malformations

Your chances of AVMs are higher if:
  • They run in your family—your genes may play a role
  • You had a head injury
  • You had surgery or radiation therapy

Diagnosing arteriovenous malformations

Your physician will ask about your symptoms and health history and may perform a physician examination and may order one or more of the following diagnostic imaging tests:

  • Cerebral angiography
  • CT or MR angiography
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

Treating arteriovenous malformations

If you have been diagnosed with an AVM, your plan of care will depend on whether or not the AVM has ruptured. The goals of care are to remove or damage the AVM and prevent bleeding. Treatment may include the use of medications and/or surgery. The type of surgery will vary depending on the size and site of the AVM.

Heart and vascular specialists

The experienced heart specialists at Houston Heart are experts at diagnosing and treating all types of heart and vascular disease.

To learn more, schedule an appointment.