Arteriovenous Malformations (AVMs)

A brain AVM is a rare, usually genetic, condition where a network of abnormal blood vessels disrupts blood flow to the brain. They can sometimes be caused by an injury to the head. AVMs can cause bleeding in the brain, brain damage, stroke, paralysis and disability.


Symptoms can include headaches, seizures, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, tingling or numbness, problems with vision, difficulty with hearing and memory, and changes in personality.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Radiology is the primary method to diagnose an AVM. Treatment might include medication to control symptoms or blood pressure. Surgery may be needed to remove the AVM. Surgical advances are making previously inoperable brain AVMs more accessible and safer for surgical removal. AVMs do not usually grow back and the risk of complications is low.

Current surgical procedures include:

  • Embolization is a minimally invasive procedure where a catheter is inserted through the groin, reaching the brain using x-ray imaging. The catheter is used to inject an embolizing ‘glue’ that blocks the arteries feeding the AVM, reducing its blood flow.
  • Radiosurgery uses radiation to target small AVMs that have not caused bleeding. There is no incision and an x-ray beam of radiation beam is directed at the AVM to damage and scar the AVM blood vessels which then clot and close up over a period of one to three years.
  • Brain surgery to remove the AVM might be recommended if there is bleeding and the brain AVM can be easily located. The surgeon will use a high-powered microscope to seal off the AVM and remove it from brain tissue.


Recovery time for patients with an AVM can differ from patient to patient depending on the size, location and structure of the AVM and the type of treatment.


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