A brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain. An arteriovenous malformation can develop anywhere in your body but occurs most often in the brain or spine. Even so, brain AVMs are rare and affect less than 1 percent of the population.
AVMs are commonly found after a brain scan for another health issue or after the blood vessels rupture and cause bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage).Once diagnosed, a brain AVM can often be treated successfully to prevent complications, such as brain damage or stroke.
If the brain AVM has bled or is in an area that can easily be reached, surgical removal of the AVM via conventional brain surgery may be recommended. In this procedure, your neurosurgeon removes part of your skull temporarily to gain access to the AVM.
With the help of a high-powered microscope, the surgeon seals off the AVM with special clips and carefully removes it from surrounding brain tissue. The surgeon then reattaches the skull bone and closes the incision in your scalp.
Endovascular embolization is used to treat other AVMs. In this procedure, your neurosurgeon or interventional radiologist inserts a long, thin tube (catheter) into a leg artery and threads it through blood vessels to your brain using X-ray imaging.
The catheter is positioned in one of the feeding arteries to the AVM, and injects an embolizing agent, such as small particles, a glue-like substance, microcoils or other materials, to block the artery and reduce blood flow into the AVM.
Endovascular embolization is less invasive than traditional surgery. It may be performed alone, but is frequently used prior to other surgical treatments to make the procedure safer by reducing the size of the AVM or the likelihood of bleeding.