Arteriovenous Malformation

When your blood vessels are working normally, your arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your other organs. Your veins return that blood to your heart, and your capillaries connect them. An arteriovenous malformation – or AVM – occurs when some of your arteries and veins get tangled up without those capillaries between them. AVMs are typically present at or soon after birth.



You can develop an AVM anywhere in your body. The most common locations are your brain and your spinal cord. People can have an AVM for years without any symptoms. But eventually the mass will start to bleed. 

Once this happens, your symptoms can include:

  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Seizure
  • The sound of your heartbeat in your ear (pulsatile tinnitus)


AVMs are often noticed during unrelated medical procedures or test. If you are having symptoms, your doctor may recommend an MRI.

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Treatment Options

If you have an AVM, you and your neuroscience care team will decide on a treatment tailored to your needs. Your options may include:

  • Observation
  • Surgery, which is used most often. It can reduce your risk of hemorrhaging in the future.
  • CyberKnife® radiosurgery[page in development], a non-invasive, robotic system that can pinpoint the AVM’s location and deliver high radiation doses with pinpoint accuracy.
  • AVM Embolization with a liquid embolic agent such as Onyx or nBCA glue.

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