Arteriovenous Malformations

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Arteriovenous Malformations (AVMs) are very rare brain disorders that are formed during fetal development. AVMs are one of the leading causes of stroke within today’s young generation. AVMs are an abnormal collection of tangled blood vessels located in the brain. These blood vessels disturb normal blood flow in the brain by sucking blood within the vessels to its dense center. This causes the blood vessels to enlarge. Over several years, once the blood vessels have enlarged to its maximum capacity, the blood vessels will burst. This causes a person to have a hemorrhage, which leads to a stroke. The patient may or may not have significant symptoms. If treated correctly, there is a less percentage for a hemorrhage to reoccur within a patient’s life span. In such cases, AVM patients undergo more trauma than other medical diseases. They experience a new phase of life. After a hemorrhage, patients begin to experience difficulty in processing information the way they used to; therefore, they adapt by learning how to process things differently.


AVMs are defects of the circulatory system in the brain or in the spinal cord that are generally believed to rise during fetal development or soon after birth. An AVM is an abnormal collection of blood vessels in the brain. Normally, arteries carry the oxygen rich blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body; this blood is then carried to the veins through small capillaries. The oxygen-reduced blood is now carried through the veins back to the heart. However, in an AVM patient, a tangled cluster of blood vessels connect the arteries in the brain to the veins instead of capillaries. This abnormal formation causes an AVM to disrupt the normal cyclic process.

AVMs can occur in any area of the body where there are a collection of blood vessels. It can also occur in the cerebellum, the brain stem, spinal cord, or ventricles. It is more commonly found in the brain and spinal cord. It can occur in any regions of the brain: frontal, parietal, occipital, temporal. Patients suffering with AVMs in the brain or spinal cord undergo more trauma than patients who suffer from an AVM in other parts of their bodies.


Approximately one percent of the population has AVMs. There is a higher percentage of brain hemorrhaging in young patients around the ages of ten to thirty year olds than there are in the elderly. Youths have a much higher percentage for a speedy and affective recovery. AVMs are characterized as a “silent” defect. Males are more likely to have them over females. AVMs are as common in any particular ethnic or racial group. The causes of AVMs are unknown. Most patients are usually born with them or obtain them shortly after birth. AVMs can also be formed after an accident. However, most patients never realize that they have this defect. AVMs are not usually hereditary. Therefore, they never get it from their parent nor do they pass it on to their children.

Normally, capillaries decrease the blood flow causing the pressure between the arteries and veins to lessen. However, since an AVM patient lacks capillaries, there is a high pressure of blood flow in the veins, resulting in the swelling of the veins. A high pressure blood flow causes the blood vessels to rupture; therefore, causing a AVM patient to hemorrhage. AVMs can occur in any entanglement of arteries and veins. However, they are more common in the brain or spinal cord. AVMs of the brain or spinal cord are believed to affect one percent of the population.

Symptoms and Risks

Most people with AVMs do not know they have this disorder because there are very few or no symptoms. AVMs can be diagnosed through computerized axial tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This malformation is usually found after a person has been admitted to the hospital for an unrelated head injury or complaints of severe headaches. Seizures and extreme headaches are the most common...
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