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Arteriovenous Malformations (AVM): Symptoms & Treatment

Arteriovenous malformations are a rare condition involving abnormal connections between arteries and veins in the brain. While rare, they can be life-threatening if bleeding occurs. They’re often found as the result of headaches, seizures or other neurological dysfunctions. Cerebral arteriovenous abnormalities can also cause hemorrhage and stroke.

If you’re experiencing mild or severe symptoms, it is important to discuss your  concerns with a brain specialist. The neurological experts at SSM Health are available to determine the cause of your symptoms and develop the right treatment for you.

Signs & Symptoms of AVM

The signs and symptoms of AVM can vary depending on the type and location. Migraine-like headaches and seizures are common symptoms, but most AVMs are actually asymptomatic, until a bleed occurs.

Common signs of brain AVMs are:
  • Sudden onset of a severe headache, vomiting, or stiff neck
  • Headache or pain in an isolated area of the head
  • Bruit: abnormal swishing or ringing sound in the ear
  • Weakness or numbness in one part of the body
Signs of spinal AVMs are:
  • Sudden, acute back pain
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Paralysis

Other neurological signs and symptoms can occur as well, including:

  • Vision loss
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Confusion or inability to understand others
  • Severe unsteadiness

Speak with your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms. The team at SSM Health believes in a proactive medical approach and treating your condition before it becomes a chronic problem.

Treating AVMs

The physicians at SSM Health Neurosciences treat AVMs using a few different methods.

  • Endovascular embolization: This catheter-based treatment uses arteries in the leg to access blood vessels in your brain. The catheter is used to inject an embolizing agent, similar to an epoxy, to block the artery and reduce blood flow to the AVM.
  • Focused radiation: Most suitable for smaller AVMs, this procedure directs highly targeted radiation beams at the AVM to damage and scar the blood vessels. The scarred vessels slowly clot off one to three years after treatment.
  • Surgical removal: If the area can be easily reached, an SSM Health neurosurgeon will seal off the AVM, using special clips, and carefully remove it from the surrounding brain tissue.

The multidisciplinary approach to care at SSM Health Neurosciences allows us to treat you better. Our team approach gives us the best opportunity to find the right treatment for your neurological condition. Schedule an appointment with an SSM Health Neurosciences specialist today to learn more and reclaim your health.

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