Arteriovenous Malformations of the Central Nervous System
(AVM; Arteriovenous Malformations of the Brain; Arteriovenous Malformations of the Spinal Cord)
Pronounced: Ar-teer-ee-o-vee-nus Mal-form-ay-shons
by Diane A. Safer, PhD
Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are tangles of abnormal blood vessels. They can form wherever arteries and veins exist. They can be found anywhere in the body. AVMs of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) are the most serious.
The cause of AVMs is unknown.
Your chances of AVMs are higher if:
In many cases, AVMs don’t cause problems. In those that have them, symptoms differ between people. They depend on the size and site of the AVM.
AVMs in the brain may cause:
Serious complications of bleeding can lead to:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. AVMs may be found during testing for another reason. You may have:
You may need to see a specialist for care. The goals of care are to remove or damage the AVM, and prevent bleeding.
Care depends on if the AVM has ruptured or not. Sometimes, more than one method is used. Care may be in a hospital.
Medicines help ease symptoms. They also manage problems of an AVM that hasn’t ruptured. Medicines treat:
If the AVM ruptured, surgery may be delayed for 2-6 weeks. The type depends on the size and site of the AVM. Options include:
There is no way to prevent AVMs since the cause is unknown.
American Stroke Association
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation
Arteriovenous malformation information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Arteriovenous-Malformation-Information-Page#disorders-r1. Updated June 15, 2018. Accessed July 11, 2018.
Geibprasert S, Pongpech S, Jiarakongmun P, Shroff MM, Armstrong DC, Krings T. Radiologic assessment of brain arteriovenous malformations: what clinicians need to know. Radiographics. 2010;30(2):483-501.
Intracerebral hemorrhage. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated July 11, 2018. Accessed July 11, 2018.
Ogilvy CS, Stieg PE, Awad I, et al. AHA Scientific Statement: Recommendations for the management of intracranial arteriovenous malformations: a statement for healthcare professionals from a special writing group of the Stroke Council, American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2001;32(6):1458-1471.
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Spinal cord arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Updated October, 2016. Accessed July 11, 2018.
Vascular malformations of the brain. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated June 6, 2018. Accessed July 11, 2018.
What is an arteriovenous malformation (AVM)? American Stroke Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated June 22, 2017. Accessed July 11, 2018.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 7/11/2018
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