Branching off of our arteries are a network of capillaries whose job is to deliver oxygen in the blood to the surrounding tissues. Once the oxygen has been taken, the capillaries then return the blood to the veins for the trip back to the heart to restart the process. When a person has an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), the capillaries in the area are an abnormal tangle of blood vessels that allow the oxygenated blood to pass too quickly across the network to the vein. This prevents the tissues served by the capillaries from getting enough oxygen. When an AVM is present and the normal blood distribution is disrupted, the affected arteries and veins can weaken and rupture. In the brain, this can lead to hemorrhage, stroke, or brain damage.
The treatment for an arteriovenous malformation is typically surgery. At Texas Neurosurgery, Dr. Barnett, Dr. Michael, and Dr. Bidiwala perform these procedures.
What are the symptoms of an arteriovenous malformation?
The symptoms of an AVM vary based on where it is located. Often the first signs and symptoms appear after bleeding occurs. These can include:
- Progressive loss of neurological function
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of consciousness
These are some more specific possible other symptoms:
- Muscle weakness
- Paralysis in one part of the body
- Loss of coordination affecting gait
- Weakness in the lower extremities
- Back pain
- Vision problems
- Problems with speech or understanding language
- Unusual numbness, tingling, or sudden pain
- Memory loss or dementia
How is arteriovenous malformation treated?
The main treatment for AVM is surgery. These procedures may completely remove the AVM, especially if it is small and located in an area where it can be removed without causing significant damage to brain tissue.
Endovascular embolization is a type of surgery in which our Texas Neurosurgery surgeons thread a catheter through the arteries to the AVM. When the AVM is reached, a substance is injected to create an artificial blood clot in the middle of the AVM. This temporarily reduces blood flow.
Stereotactic radiosurgery may also be used. This is usually used on small AVMs that have not yet ruptured. This treatment method uses intense, highly focused beams of radiation to damage the blood vessels and stop the blood supply to the AVM.