When an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) occurs, a tangle of blood vessels in the brain diverts blood from the arteries reducing the amount of oxygen to the brain. This can cause complications and sometimes will need medical treatment.

Symptoms of a AVM can include seizures, localized pain in the head due to increased blood flow or impaired speech or vision problems. Complications of AVM can include bleeding into the brain also known as a hemorrhage. A brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM) contains abnormal and weakened blood vessels that can dilate over time and may even burst from the high pressure of blood flow from arteries, causing bleeding into the brain.

There are a few ways to treat AVM such as:

Medical Therapy

If there are no symptoms or almost none, or if an AVM is in an area of the brain that can’t be easily treated, conservative medical management may be indicated. If possible, a person with an AVM should avoid any activities that may excessively elevate blood pressure, such as heavy lifting or straining, and avoid blood thinners like warfarin. A person with an AVM should have regular checkups with a neurologist or neurosurgeon.

Surgery

If an AVM has bled and/or is in an area that can be easily operated upon, then surgical removal may be recommended. The patient is put to sleep with anesthesia, a portion of the skull is removed, and the AVM is surgically removed. When the AVM is completely taken out, the possibility of any further bleeding should be eliminated.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery

An AVM that’s not too large, but is in an area that’s difficult to reach by regular surgery, may be treated with stereotactic radiosurgery. In this procedure, a cerebral angiogram is done to localize the AVM. Focused-beam high energy sources are then concentrated on the brain AVM to produce direct damage to the vessels that will cause a scar and allow the AVM to “clot off.”

Interventional Neuroradiology / Endovascular Neurosurgery

It may be possible to treat part or all of the AVM by placing a catheter (small tube) inside the blood vessels that supply the AVM and blocking off the abnormal blood vessels with various materials. These include liquid tissue adhesives (glues), micro coils, particles and other materials used to stop blood flowing to the AVM. The best treatment depends on the symptoms the patient is having, what type of AVM is present and the AVM’s size and location.