Arteriovenous Malformations

(AVM; Arteriovenous Malformations of the Brain; Arteriovenous Malformations of the Spine; AMB)

Definition

Arteriovenous malformations (AVM) of the brain and spinal cord are tangles of abnormal blood vessels. They can form wherever arteries and veins exist. The ones that form in the brain or spinal cord have the most serious symptoms.
Arteriovenous Malformation in the Brain
AVM brain blood vessels
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Causes

The exact cause of arteriovenous malformations is unknown.

Risk Factors

Risk factors that increase your chance of getting arteriovenous malformations include:
  • Family history—some types of arteriovenous malformations are from genetic defects that can be passed on from one generation to the next.
  • History of bleeding—some types of arteriovenous malformations are linked to an increased risk of bleeding. People with unexplained recurrent bleeding may be at higher risk of having arteriovenous malformations.
  • Smoking

Symptoms

There are a number of symptoms that you may have if you have an arteriovenous malformation. Symptoms vary from person to person. They also depend on the location of the arteriovenous malformation in your body.Symptoms may include:
  • Seizures
  • Headache, especially on one side of the head
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of movement on one side of the body
  • Lightheadedness
  • Unable to perform movements, but not due to loss of movement
  • Loss of coordination, especially when walking
  • Sudden, severe back pain
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding language
  • Loss of senses
  • Visual problems
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty thinking or mental confusion
  • Hallucinations

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:You may be referred to a specialist for an exam and treatment. There are a number of specialists who focus on arteriovenous malformation such as neurologists, neurosurgeons, and interventional neuroradiologists.

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