Arteriovenous Malformation

When abnormal blood vessels get tangled up in the body, it’s called an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). A cerebral arteriovenous malformation is when this tangle of abnormal blood vessels happens in the brain.

While rare, this cerebrovascular condition can be serious – especially if the AVM ruptures, causing a brain bleed. At Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Neuroscience Institute, you’ll get the right diagnosis and treatment for your needs. Our deep knowledge of this condition allows us to provide an expert level of care for you.

Arteriovenous malformation symptoms

Physicians don’t know what causes an AVM. Many people who have it may be born with it. Often, people aren’t aware they have the condition until one of the vessels bursts, causing bleeding in the brain. This bleeding requires immediate attention.

People with a cerebral arteriovenous malformation may experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
  • Aneurysm (a bulging or bubble in a blood vessel wall)
  • Changes in speech or vision

Diagnosing arteriovenous malformation

Physicians first ask you about your medical history and perform a physical examination to evaluate your symptoms. Based on the results, your doctor may order more tests, including:

  • CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan: Advanced imaging of the brain can show the presence of an AVM.
  • Cerebral brain angiogram: Physicians guide a catheter through your blood vessels. A special dye helps identify the tangle of blood vessels in the brain. This test can give physicians more details about the risk of bleeding and what treatment may be most effective.

Get expert AVM treatment at AHN

Neurosurgeons and neuro-interventionalists at AHN provide personalized treatment recommendations tailored to your unique needs. Your treatment depends on whether an AVM has caused a brain bleed (which requires immediate treatment) or is causing any symptoms.

At AHN, our cerebrovascular team is skilled in performing the most effective treatments for AVM, including:

  • Microsurgery: Surgeons remove the AVM, an effective treatment for many patients. We consider several factors before performing this surgery, including the size and location of the AVM, as well as your age and overall health.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery: In this nonsurgical procedure, a physician delivers a focused dose (or multiple doses) of radiation to the affected area, causing the blood vessels to eventually close off. Your physician may recommend this treatment for AVMs that are smaller in size or if you are unable to undergo surgery for any reason.
  • Embolization: A physician places a small tube into the abnormal arteries feeding the AVM and injects a glue-like material into the arteries to block them. This procedure can shrink an AVM, lessening the risk it poses.

Contact us

To schedule an appointment or learn more about AHN neuroscience services, call (412) 359-6200.

If you're an existing patient, you can also call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 in Pittsburgh or request an appointment with AHN neuroscience services.