A brain Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain. A brain AVM can look a little like seaweed on the bottom of the ocean, where all the vessels are tangled up with each other.
Symptoms usually occur as early as 10 years old, right up to 40. Over time, brain AVM’s damage brain tissue. Once a person reaches middle-aged, the AVM usually doesn't cause any problems.
Researchers believe that AVM’s are present from fetal development, but can stay dormant for many years, and may never show themselves.
Normally, the heart sends oxygenated blood to your brain through arteries. Arteries slow blood flow by passing it through a series of progressively smaller networks of blood vessels, ending with capillaries, which slowly deliver oxygen through walls to the surrounding tissues.
The organ depleted blood then passes into small blood vessel's and into larger veins that drain blood from the brain and returns it to your heart and lungs to get more oxygen.
The cause of cerebral AVM’s are unknown, they vary in size and location in the brain. There may not be any signs or symptoms until it ruptures. Brain AVM’s are the reason for at least 2% of hemorrhage strokes each year.
Although you may have a neurological disease and have had numerous MRIs, doesn't mean the AVM will be detected until it is too late and a stroke has occurred. The doctor must be searching for the AVM.
If all of a sudden, any part of your body becomes paralyzed, seek immediate medical care!
The first test that will be performed is a cerebral angiogram. The doctor inserts a long thin tube into the artery in the groin and then sends it to the brain using an x-ray. Dye is injected into the blood vessels of your brain, so they can be seen on the x-ray. This test will show if the AVM is bleeding or has bled.
Surgery is the most common treatment for brain AVM’s. Brain surgery is also known as a craniotomy. If possible, the neurosurgeon will remove part of the skull temporarily to remove the AVM. Using a heavy duty microscope, the surgeon will clip off the AVM and remove it from surrounding tissue. Then, reattach the skull bone and close the incision to the scalp.
AVM’s only occur in 3 of 10,000 people. About 10% of cases that show by hemorrhage as the first symptom of having an AVM, are fatal. The chances of curing an AVM with surgical treatment is very high. When the AVM is removed, it will not recur.
Of course, the incision will be sore for about a week or so. Medicine and ice packs can help with pain and swelling. You can get back to normal activities around 4 to 6 weeks.
The good part of AVM’s are that they are not hereditary.