A brain AVM (Arteriovenous malformation) is a tangle that happens to blood vessels, therefore, resulting in an abnormal artery-to-vein connection. In a normal healthy person, the arteries carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the brain. Also, the veins carry deoxygenated blood away from the brain and back to the heart. Therefore, in the occurrence of an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), there is a tangle of vessels in the brain bypasses hence diverting the blood from the arteries to the veins.
Brain AVMs are those that occur on the surface of the brain or within the brain. So, Brain AVMs are mostly common only in the brainstem, the brain, and the spinal cord. However, AVMs can occur in any part of your body for instance the legs, arms, genitals, and heart. This is because blood vessels are all over your body. AVMs are congenital and therefore one can only be born with them.
So, the symptoms of AVMs vary depending on the location of the malformation. With it, there is a high chance of bleeding. Also, they become bigger as one grows. Mainly, this growth of size occurs during puberty, pregnancy, or even after an injury or trauma. So, the physical symptoms are;
- A rushing sound in your ears.
- You may have a headache.
- Frequent backache.
- You may lose sensation in some parts of the body.
- Weakness of the muscles.
- Your vision may change.
- The face may paralyze.
- Eyelids drop.
- Difficulties in speaking.
- Difficulties with movement.
- Feeling dizziness.
- At times, you may lose consciousness.
- The fingers or toes may be cold or blue.
Risks associated with AVM
- One may develop a stroke.
- Some parts of the body may get numb.
- Speech, and movement difficulties.
- Growth delay in children.
- One may develop an accumulation of fluid in the spinal cord, that is within your brain as a result of pressure on the normal pathways. This is known as hydrocephalus.
- It lowers the quality of life
- Some death risks due to hemorrhage
Types of AVM
- True arteriovenous malformation– This type is a common brain vascular malformation whereby, the blood vessels tangle interceding with brain tissue.
- Occult also known as a cryptic or cavernous malformations-This type of vascular malformation does not actively cause a diversion of a large amount of blood. Bleeding occurs regularly producing seizures.
- Hemangiomas– These are abnormal types of blood vessel structures that will be found on the surface of your brain, on your skin, and on the facial structures.
- Venous malformation– This is an abnormality that only happens in the veins.
- The dural fistula-dura mater is the covering of the brain. So, this type only occurs in parts of the brain covering. There are three types of dural fistulas. They are;
- Dural carotid or cavernous sinus fistula –This type affect behind the eye.
2. Transverse or Sigmoid sinus dural fistula- So, this affects behind the ear
3. Sagittal sinus or scalp dural fistula which occurs towards the top of the head.
AVMs occur before birth or shortly after birth. Therefore, it is not hard to know their cause. So, once you detect the symptoms related, it is advisable to visit a health care specialist.
Depending on the type, the doctors may decide to use the following method of treatment;
- Medical therapy
- Endovascular Neurosurgery
- Stereotactic radiosurgery.