Arteriovenous Malformations

Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a snarled tangle of abnormal arteries and veins in the brain. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the brain, while veins return oxygen-depleted blood to the lungs and heart. With AVM, this process is disrupted and blood is passed directly from the arteries to the veins.

The abnormal blood vessels that direct blood away from the brain have weakened walls, which can expand and rupture (burst) from the pressure of blood flow and cause blood to hemorrhage (leak) into the brain. Each leak can cause damage to the brain tissue, causing symptoms such as headaches, seizures, difficulty with vision, speech or memory, and weakness or paralysis in the arms and legs.

AVM is often diagnosed during testing for another condition or after a blood vessel has ruptured and hemorrhaged into the brain. The treatment goal is to diagnose and remove AVMs before they rupture and prevent complications, including brain damage and stroke.

The Temple neurologists at Jeanes Hospital have extensive experience in the diagnosis and effective treatment of AVM.

AVM Treatment at Jeanes Hospital

The type of treatment of AVM depends on its size and location. Since each patient’s situation is unique, Temple neurosurgeons assess the risk before deciding on which course of action to take.

There are currently three main surgical options used at Jeanes Hospital for the treatment of AVM:

  • Surgical resection (removal) – which is commonly used if the AVM is easy to access or if there has been bleeding. A small portion of the skull is temporarily removed and, using a high-powered microscope, the Temple neurosurgeon seals off and removes the AVM to eliminate further bleeding.
  • Endovascular embolization – which involves making a small incision in the groin and feeding a small tube through the body to the arteries feeding the AVM. An embolizing (obstructing) agent is then fed through the tube to the shut off the arteries and reduce blood flow to the AVM. Though this does not eliminate the AVM, it is less invasive than surgery and is often used to reduce the size of the AVM in preparation for surgery.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery – the least invasive treatment is used for AVMs that are not too large and in hard-to-reach areas of the brain. Highly-focused beams of radiation are delivered to the core of the AVM, damaging and scarring the walls of the blood vessels. The AVM then “clots off” within a few years.

To schedule an appointment with a Temple neurosurgeon or neurosurgeon at the Jeanes Hospital Neurosciences Center, click here or call 215-728-CARE (2273).

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