Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformation – Common Risk Factors, Symptoms and Treatments
Arteries are responsible for carrying blood that contains oxygen from the heart to the brain and veins take oxygen-depleted blood away from the brain and return it to the heart. However, when a cerebral arteriovenous malformation occurs, abnormal blood vessels become tangled, disrupting the normal function of these arteries and veins. While the condition can develop anywhere in the body, it typically appears in the brain or spine. Fortunately, cerebral arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are rare, and once diagnosed, they can often be treated successfully to prevent further health complications.
The Risk Factors of a Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformation
While the cause of cerebral arteriovenous malformations remains unknown, current research suggests that this tangle of abnormal vessels emerge during fetal development. Weakened blood vessels carry blood away from normal blood tissue. Overtime, these blood vessels dilate and may rupture due to the high-pressure blood flow from your arteries. While anyone can be born with this condition, there are a couple of other factors which may increase the risk:
- Cerebral arteriovenous malformations are more common in males
- Family history or inheriting other medical conditions that predispose you to having this condition
The Symptoms of a Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformation
Initially, a cerebral arteriovenous malformation may not cause any noticeable symptoms until it ruptures, which results in bleeding in the brain. In fact, a brain hemorrhage is usually the first indication that an individual may have this condition. However, there are some other warning signs you can look out for which may include:
- Numbness or muscle weakness
- Loss of coordination
- Vision loss
- Difficulty speaking and understanding others
- Mental confusion and severe physical unsteadiness
Treatment Options of a Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformation
Fortunately, while the condition can be serious, there are several treatment options that may be used to manage symptoms and prevent a rupture. A doctor can prescribe the right treatment according to certain factors such as age, overall health, size and location of the cluster. The following procedures are the most common treatments for cerebral arteriovenous malformations:
- If the cerebral arteriovenous malformation is in an area that can be easily reached or has ruptured, conventional brain surgery may be recommended. During this procedure, part of the skull is removed, and the cluster of blood vessels are sealed off using special clips to remove it from the surrounding brain tissue.
- An endovascular embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that involves using a catheter to prevent a rupture. The long and thin tube is inserted into a leg artery until it reaches the blood vessels in the brain. The catheter is placed directly into one of the feeding arteries of the cerebral arteriovenous malformation and an embolizing agent is injected to reduce blood flow and block the artery.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery is a treatment that uses radiation to target the cerebral arteriovenous malformation. Highly concentrated radiation beams are used to damage the blood vessels and cause scarring. These scarred blood vessels eventually clot off. This treatment method is best reserved for small clusters that are difficult to remove with conventional surgery or do not pose a threat to your overall health.
The best approach for cerebral arteriovenous malformations is to respond quickly. At Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, that’s exactly what Dr. Lewis will do for you. As a highly trained and experienced neurosurgeon, he specializes in the treatment of cerebral arteriovenous malformations using the latest surgical techniques and innovative tools, in addition to successfully treating other complicated brain and spine conditions. As an accomplished surgeon and teacher, his published peer reviewed articles on aneurysms and cerebral arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are very insightful and prove to be a useful resource for other surgeons across the country. Dr. Lewis is a frequent speaker at yearly stroke update conferences and during the early days of his career, he taught cerebrovascular science at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC).
Contact us today to learn more about cerebral arteriovenous malformations or to schedule a consultation. We’ll find a solution that works for you. Call us at (601) 366-1011.