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Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)


Arteriovenous malformation, also known as AVM, can be difficult to diagnose. In fact, many cases are not detected until much later in life. That's because even though about 1 in every 1,000 people is born with this condition, these abnormal brain growths can take 20 to 60 years to grow large enough to cause noticeable problems.

At Dignity Health in Sacramento, our neurologists at the Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California work with a team of specialists dedicated to your care. Arteriovenous malformation can be life threatening if not treated, so we work closely together to find the best treatment plan for you.

What is Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)?

A brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels within the brain. Over time, pressure can build up and prevent normal blood flow. Blood may be diverted from brain areas to cause seizures.

If the pressure becomes too great, a blood vessel can burst and blood can leak into the brain. This can damage parts of the brain that control vital body functions such as sight and movement. In some cases, problems caused by an AVM can even lead to death. But an AVM can be treated.

Symptoms of AVM

An AVM is hard to detect until a problem occurs. Symptoms that may signify an AVM include:

  • Bad headaches
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Seizures

Team-Centered Neurological Care

At Dignity Health in Sacramento, we take a team approach to the treatment of brain arteriovenous formations. Brain AVMs are often complex and should be treated at centers where both neurosurgery and neurointerventional radiology expertise are available. Here at the Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California, our team consists of:

  • Cerebrovascular neurosurgeons
  • Neurointerventional radiologists
  • Neurocritical care specialists
  • Rehabilitation physicians

Treatments for AVM

We base treatments on the patient's history, symptoms and anatomy of the AVM including its size, feeding arteries, draining veins and location within the brain. AVM treatments include

  • Endovascular embolization (closure from within the blood vessels)
  • Open surgical removal
  • Radiosurgery
  • A combination of techniques

Embolization is often used to shrink the AVM for easier surgical removal. Endovascular embolization is minimally invasive and can be performed within Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California's neurointerventional radiology department.

For assistance with a physician referral, call 1-888-800-7688. To request additional information from someone at the Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California, email us today.