An Arterio-Venous Malformations (AVM) is a tangle of abnormal and poorly formed blood vessels (arteries and veins), with an innate propensity to bleed. An AVM can occur anywhere in the body, but brain and spinal AVMs present substantial risks when they bleed. Because the brain and its blood vessels are formed together during embryological development, abnormal blood vessel formation is often associated with abnormal brain tissue. A person with an AVM may experience no symptoms. AVMs tend to be discovered only incidentally, usually either at autopsy or during treatment for an unrelated disorder. AVMs can irritate the surrounding brain and cause seizures or headaches. The most common symptom is brain haemorrhage. The three types of treatment available include direct removal using microsurgical techniques, stereotactic radiosurgery, and embolization.
Advantages: Many patients undergoing microsurgery make an excellent and quick recovery after several days of hospitalisation.
Who is affected by AVM?
AVMs of the brain and spine are congenital (present at birth) and relatively rare. They affect both men and women at about the same rate. They can occur at all ages, but most often cause symptoms between 20 and 40 years of age.
What treatments are available?
Surgery, endovascular therapy, and radiosurgery can be used alone or in combination to treat an AVM. Endovascular embolisation is often performed before surgery to reduce the AVM size and risk of operative bleeding. Radiosurgery or embolisation may be used after surgery to treat any remaining portions of the AVM.
How is a diagnosis made?
Symptoms, current and previous medical problems, current medications, family history, and physical examination are used for the diagnosis. Diagnostic tests are used to help determine the AVM's location, size, type, and involvement with other structures.
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