An arteriovenous malformation is a defect of the circulatory system that develops during embryonic development or shortly after birth and may form in several different locations throughout the body. Many arteriovenous malformations do not cause any symptoms, but those in the brain or spinal cord can have widespread effects on the body. Symptoms usually arise when patients are in their 30s, although they may occur at any time. Patients with an arteriovenous malformation often experience seizures and headaches, as well as muscle weakness, loss of coordination, dizziness, visual disturbances, mental confusion, abnormal sensations and more. Symptoms vary depending on the location of the malformation. As the malformation does not allow the brain to absorb oxygen from the blood, stroke-like symptoms are often experienced as well. Mild symptoms of an arteriovenous malformation can often be managed through medication, but the most effective treatment is usually surgery or focused irradiation therapy or radiosurgery. Before undergoing surgery, your doctor will perform a thorough evaluation and weigh the benefits and risks of the procedure for each patient’s individual case.
A brain AVM is a congenital condition involving an abnormal connection between arteries and veins within the brain, causing them to appear as tangled and dilated, and putting patients at risk for hemorrhaging and other serious complications. AVMs are present at birth and may occur nearly anywhere in the body, but are most common within the brain or spine. The specific cause of this condition is unknown, but it is more common in boys than in girls. Symptoms are likely to present themselves before the age of 50, but may occur at any time.
Symptoms of Brain AVMs
Patients with this condition do not usually experience any symptoms until the AVM ruptures and causing hemorrhaging within the brain. At this time, symptoms may include:
- Weakness and numbness
- Pulsing noise in the head
- Vision loss
- Difficulty speaking
A ruptured AVM is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate treatment in order to reduce the risk of serious complications. A brain AVM can be diagnosed through a regular medical examination performed by a skilled neurologist. Imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI or cerebral angiography may be performed to confirm the diagnosis and provide more detailed information.
Treatment of AVMs
Treatment for an AVM may include several different options depending on the size and location of the affected blood vessels, and may include medication, surgery or radiosurgery. Your doctor will determine the most appropriate treatment for your individual condition.
- Surgical resection of small AVMs is a safe and effective treatment for most patients, and involves temporarily removing a section of the skull to seal off the AVM with clips and remove it from the brain tissue.
- Endovascular embolization involves inserting a catheter into an artery in the leg and feeding it through the body to the brain to then inject a glue-like substance that will block the vessel.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery uses radiation to gradually form a blood clot and destroy the AVM, ideal for small AVMs that are not considered life-threatening.
The outlook for successful treatment is highest in patients who experience early symptoms from an AVM prior to hemorrhaging.
At Princeton Neurological Surgery, Dr. Lipani is a board certified fellowship trained neurosurgeon in New Jersey and specialist in the treatment for arteriovenous malformation. Dr. Lipani treats patients from around the world as well as locally from Princeton, New Brunswick, Hopewell, Pennington and communities throughout Somerset, Middlesex, Ocean, Burlington, Monmouth and Mercer Counties for AVMs. Dr. Lipani offers image guided brain surgery approaches and the latest in noninvasive radiosurgery procedures for AVM treatment, tailored to the needs of each patient. If you want state-of-the-art arteriovenous malformation treatment, or to learn about CyberKnife radiosurgery, call or email us to schedule a consultation at our offices in Hamilton or Bridgewater, New Jersey!