AVM Symptoms

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is an abnormal tangle of arteries and veins. This malformation is under high pressure and is at risk for rupture and bleeding in the brain—a severe form of stroke. The brain and spine are the most common sites for AVMs to develop.

Brain AVMs affect less than one percent of the general population and are usually discovered when a person is between 20 and 40 years old, although patients of any age can be diagnosed with an AVM.

The experienced neurosurgeons and neurointerventional surgeons at Barnes-Jewish Hospital can diagnose and treat your AVM symptoms. Though AVM is a rare condition, our team treats the majority of AVMs in the St. Louis region, providing us with the expert level of care you need. 

Request a call to schedule an appointment with a Washington University neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

What are Signs & Symptoms of AVMs?

In many cases, AVMs don’t cause any symptoms, so people don’t realize they have the condition. When symptoms occur, they most commonly emerge between 20 and 40 years of age.

Symptoms range in severity from mild to debilitating. Seizures and headaches are the most common symptoms. Other signs and symptoms of an AVM may include:

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Sudden, severe headache or back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Memory problems or confusion
  • Problems speaking or understanding language
  • Vision problems
  • Loss of consciousness

If an AVM ruptures, it will bleed into the brain, which can cause brain damage. Call 9-1-1 for emergency medical treatment if you or someone you are with experience signs of stroke, such as sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body or speech impairment. With a full operating team on site at all times, Barnes-Jewish Hospital can quickly treat your AVM rupture. We are one of just 100 Comprehensive Stroke Centers in the United States, meeting high standards of care for even complex stroke cases.

Diagnosing AVMs

AVMs are commonly diagnosed after a hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) or seizure. They also are discovered prior to symptom onset or during diagnosis or treatment of another condition. 

We use advanced imaging to diagnose your AVM, including CT, CTA, MRI, MRA or cerebral angiogram, which is a minimally invasive catheter-based procedure. 

These tests can detect an AVM and give your neurovascular specialist information about the specific location and size. They also provide details about blood flow in the area and whether or not the AVM has bled. Having a complete diagnosis helps our team of specialists collaborate and decide on the right treatment for your unique case. This may include watching and waiting, radiation therapy, endovascular embolization or surgery.

To make an appointment with a Washington University neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 855.925.0631.

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