Brain Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)

What is Brain Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)

Brain arteriovenous malformation is a condition that means your arteries and veins are tangled. The veins bring blood to the heart and lungs. The arteries bring blood away from the heart and to the brain.

If they are tangled, blood cannot travel to where it is needed. Brain AVM may also lead to bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage), which can be life-threatening. Most brain AVMs are present since birth (congenital).

What are the causes?

It is not known what causes brain AVM. Genes that are passed down through families may cause some types of AVM.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition depend on which area of the brain is affected and the amount of damage. Symptoms may include:

  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Vision changes.
  • Seizure.
  • Weakness or loss of movement in part of the body.
  • Tingling or numbness in part of the body.
  • Loss of ability to speak.
  • Clumsiness.
  • Confusion or memory loss.
  • Seeing things that are not there (hallucinations).
  • Fainting, if the AVM ruptures.

You may not have any symptoms.

How is this diagnosed?

Your health care provider may suspect a brain AVM based on your symptoms and medical history. You will have a physical exam and will also have tests done, which may include:

  • MRI or magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA).
  • CT scan or CT angiogram (CTA).
  • Cerebral angiogram.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) if your health care provider thinks that you have had a seizure.

How is this treated?

Treatment will depend on the size, location, and severity of the brain AVM. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery to remove the AVM (craniotomy).
  • Embolization. This involves closing off the vessels of the AVM by injecting glue into them.
  • Radiosurgery. This involves focusing radiation on the AVM.
  • Medicines to control your symptoms, such as seizures or headaches.
  • Monitoring the AVM with imaging tests to make sure it is not growing.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Learn as much as you can about your condition and work closely with your team of health care providers.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider. Do nottake blood thinners, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, NSAIDs, or warfarin, unless your health care provider tells you to do that.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Get help right away if:

  • You have a sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
  • You have nausea or vomiting occurring with another symptom.
  • You have sudden weakness or numbness of your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body.
  • You have sudden trouble walking or difficulty moving your arms or legs.
  • You have sudden confusion.
  • You have sudden trouble speaking, understanding, or both (aphasia).
  • You have sudden trouble seeing in one or both of your eyes.
  • You have a sudden loss of balance or coordination.
  • You have a stiff neck.
  • You have difficulty breathing.
  • You have partial or total loss of consciousness.

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