Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)

Tangled arteries and veins that interfere with blood flow

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a tangled cluster of arteries and veins that can interfere with your blood flow in an organ. You have this defect, or malformation, at birth (congenital), anywhere in your body. Its cause is unknown.

In rare cases, AVMs can form in your brain. Although rare, a brain AVM can pose a serious danger to you if it bursts and bleeds.

Symptoms

You may not experience symptoms of arteriovenous malformation, depending on its location and size. If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain
  • Paralysis

Overview

Symptoms

You may not experience symptoms of arteriovenous malformation, depending on its location and size. If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain
  • Paralysis

In order to successfully treat arteriovenous malformation, your physicians at IU Health will use the most advanced imaging. Brain studies help neurosurgeons and neuroradiologists at the IU Health Neuroscience Center to diagnose brain AVMs. They also help determine exactly which blood vessels to treat.

Once they have a clear understanding of the location, size and specific characteristics of your AVM, neurosurgeons can help you select the most successful treatment plan.

You physicians at the IU Health Neuroscience Center will use advanced imaging technologies, including:

  • Cerebral angiography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography scan (CT scan)

Diagnosis

In order to successfully treat arteriovenous malformation, your physicians at IU Health will use the most advanced imaging. Brain studies help neurosurgeons and neuroradiologists at the IU Health Neuroscience Center to diagnose brain AVMs. They also help determine exactly which blood vessels to treat.

Once they have a clear understanding of the location, size and specific characteristics of your AVM, neurosurgeons can help you select the most successful treatment plan.

You physicians at the IU Health Neuroscience Center will use advanced imaging technologies, including:

  • Cerebral angiography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography scan (CT scan)

As leaders in treating AVMs, Indiana University Health physicians will provide specialized expertise and sophisticated, innovative treatment options for you. These will depend on the unique characteristics of your arteriovenous malformation. In some cases, your physicians may suggest a combination of treatments. Options may include:

  • Endovascular Embolization
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery
  • Surgical Removal

Endovascular Embolization

This less-invasive procedure successfully treats AVMs deep in the brain. In endovascular embolization, your interventional neuroradiologist will insert a catheter into an artery in your groin and thread it up into your brain. The catheter delivers a glue-like substance into the AVM, blocking its blood flow and causing it to shrink. Sometimes, your physician can only use endovascular embolization and sometimes he or she combines it with an additional treatment.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Physicians at IU Health use a noninvasive treatment called stereotactic radiosurgery to target radiation to shrink your AVM. Our radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons use 3D images of the brain to help them deliver very high doses of radiation directly to the AVM. The radiation causes scar tissue to form around your AVM, blocking its blood supply. The precision of this method exposes very little of your surrounding healthy tissue.

Surgical Removal

If your brain AVM bleeds or physicians cannot easily reach it he or she may recommend surgery to remove it. During surgery, our expert neurosurgeons clip the vessels that feed your AVM—cutting off its blood supply—and then remove it. In some patients, physicians use endovascular embolization before surgery to shrink the AVM, increasing the likelihood of successful removal.

Treatment

As leaders in treating AVMs, Indiana University Health physicians will provide specialized expertise and sophisticated, innovative treatment options for you. These will depend on the unique characteristics of your arteriovenous malformation. In some cases, your physicians may suggest a combination of treatments. Options may include:

  • Endovascular Embolization
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery
  • Surgical Removal

Endovascular Embolization

This less-invasive procedure successfully treats AVMs deep in the brain. In endovascular embolization, your interventional neuroradiologist will insert a catheter into an artery in your groin and thread it up into your brain. The catheter delivers a glue-like substance into the AVM, blocking its blood flow and causing it to shrink. Sometimes, your physician can only use endovascular embolization and sometimes he or she combines it with an additional treatment.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Physicians at IU Health use a noninvasive treatment called stereotactic radiosurgery to target radiation to shrink your AVM. Our radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons use 3D images of the brain to help them deliver very high doses of radiation directly to the AVM. The radiation causes scar tissue to form around your AVM, blocking its blood supply. The precision of this method exposes very little of your surrounding healthy tissue.

Surgical Removal

If your brain AVM bleeds or physicians cannot easily reach it he or she may recommend surgery to remove it. During surgery, our expert neurosurgeons clip the vessels that feed your AVM—cutting off its blood supply—and then remove it. In some patients, physicians use endovascular embolization before surgery to shrink the AVM, increasing the likelihood of successful removal.

Patient Stories for Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)