What You Should Know About Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)
An AVM is a malformed tangle of blood
vessels in your brain. The union between
arteries and veins lacks the proper shunting
of blood through the capillaries.
It is not known why some people have
AVMs but people are likely born with them.
AVMs are not thought to be inherited or
passed to people in a family. Roughly
0.01% of people have an AVM. They are
more common in men.
Signs and Symptoms
▪ Seizures, partial or full.
▪ Headaches, migraines, or head pain
in one spot.
▪ Weakness or numbness to a body
▪ Eyesight changes, blurred or double
▪ Changes in your gait.
▪ Poor coordination.
▪ Memory loss.
▪ Mental confusion or lethargy.
The tangle of blood vessels is abnormal.
Over time, the vessels may enlarge and burst
(rupture) causing bleeding in your brain. If
your AVM bleeds, there is a 10-15% risk of
death and a 20-30% chance of lasting brain
damage. There is also a risk that you may
lose some of your body function
(movement, speech, or vision). Your doctor
will discuss in detail with you the location,
size, and risks related to your AVM.
▪ CT Scan – A type of X-ray that uses
a computer to allow doctors to see
images of your brain. This can
detect if there is any bleeding in the
▪ MRI – A medical imaging machine
that uses a large magnet instead of
radiation to see the tissues in your
▪ Angiogram – A test where X-ray
images of your brain are taken while
dye is injected into a vessel in your
groin area. These X-rays show how
the blood flows in and around the
Your doctor will discuss with you the best
treatment options for your AVM. Your
options may include one or more of these
treatment options. Many patients will have
more than one treatment for their AVMs.
▪ Observation – Your doctor may
decide that it is best to watch rather
than treat your AVM at this time.
You will need to keep your
appointments with your doctor and
follow up with any tests that may be
prescribed. Your doctor will discuss
with you if should limit your
physical activity or change your
▪ Surgery – During surgery you will
be asleep under anesthesia while part
of your skull is opened so your
doctor can remove your AVM. You
will need to stay in the hospital for a
few days and then rest at home after
that. Once your AVM is fully
removed you will no longer have any
risk of bleeding from it.
▪ Interventional Neurosurgery –
This surgery is less invasive and has
a shorter recovery time than
mentioned above. During this type
of surgery a catheter (small tube)
travels from a vessel in your groin to
the vessel in your brain feeding the
AVM. Different materials (glue,
microscopic coils, and particles) are
injected into the AVM to stop blood
from flowing into it and to prevent
▪ Radiosurgery – This surgery is also
less invasive and less recovery time
is needed. Focused-beam energy
sources are sent straight to the AVM
to scar it and allow it to “clot off”. It
can take some time, even a few
years, before the AVM shrinks or
When to Call Your Doctor Right Away
▪ Sudden loss of vision, speech, or
▪ Sudden severe headache that is not
normal for you.
▪ Sudden loss of consciousness,
seizure, being confused or dizzy.
Resources and Organizations
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
National Organization for Rare Disorders
P.O. Box 1968
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06813-1968
Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
IRSA (International RadioSurgery
P.O. Box 5186
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Friedlander, R. M., (2007). Arteriovenous
Malformations of the Brain. New England
Journal of Medicine. 356: 2704-12
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 2/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6644