Brain Vascular Malformation

A brain vascular malformation is a type of arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, that forms in the brain. Normally, arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to other parts of your body, including the brain, while veins carry blood back to the heart. Smaller blood vessels called capillaries connect the two. An AVM is a mass of arteries and veins that are connected directly to each other, without any capillaries in between.

Overview

Symptoms

Symptoms of an AVM in the brain depend on its location and size, as well as whether or not it has begun bleeding. These symptoms may include:

  • Seizures 
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Difficulty moving, talking or seeing
  • A pulsing or whooshing sound in your head

While these symptoms can occur any time, they mostly appear in the teenage or young adult years. (As you get older, a brain AVM is less likely to cause symptoms.) 

Brain AVMs are more common in men than in women. If you have one, it probably formed before birth. An AVM can prevent blood from reaching the surrounding tissues. In the brain, this can lead to brain damage. And if an AVM begins to leak blood into your brain, it can result in a stroke.

Diagnosis

If your doctor suspects that you have a brain AVM, he or she will assess your symptoms and perform a scan, such as a cerebral angiography, an MRI or CT scan. These scans can show whether you have an AVM, as well as give your doctor information about its size and whether it has bled.

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Treatment Options

Treating an AVM involves blocking off or removing the abnormal blood vessels. At Aurora, we have extensive experience treating brain AVMs and will develop a personalized plan of care based on your needs. Depending on the size and location of your AVM, as well as your risk of bleeding, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the vessels; an injection of clotting material into the AVM in order to stop blood from flowing there; or medications to help ease related symptoms, such as headaches or seizures. A radiation treatment called stereotactic radiosurgery or Cyberknife® might also be an option.

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