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What Is Brain Arteriovenous Malformation?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2016
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A brain arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, is a medical term used to describe the presence of an abnormal connection between arteries and veins within the brain. This condition is usually congenital, meaning that it is present from birth, although in rare occasions an AVM may develop later in life. The exact cause of the development of a brain arteriovenous malformation is not clearly understood. Headaches, seizures, or progressive weakness are among the possible symptoms, although many people with this condition do not experience any negative symptoms. Any questions or concerns about a brain arteriovenous malformation or the most appropriate treatment options for an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

The primary concern when a brain arteriovenous malformation is present is the risk of bleeding. A brain bleed due to an AVM can cause a significant amount of damage if not diagnosed and treated promptly. This is particularly dangerous because brain cells are not able to regenerate the way other cells of the body are capable of doing. Depending on the location of the AVM, brain bleeding or partial or complete paralysis may occur if the malformation is not treated.

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Some of the potential symptoms of a brain arteriovenous malformation may include persistent headaches or the development of a seizure disorder. In some cases, the patient may notice weakness or numbness in various parts of the body. Weakness and numbness is often progressive, meaning that it gets worse as time progresses. This may indicate damage to some of the brain cells or the development of a brain bleed. These symptoms should be taken seriously, and a doctor should be consulted immediately for further medical evaluation.

In many cases, a brain bleed caused by a brain arteriovenous malformation can closely mimic the symptoms of a stroke. As both conditions can be potentially devastating, immediate medical care is essential. The doctor will likely order a variety of diagnostic tests in order to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment varies according to the individual situation and may include radiation therapy or surgical intervention. While surgery is the most commonly used form of treatment for a brain arteriovenous malformation, an AVM that is located in the deepest areas of the brain may not be able to be removed in this manner due to the increased risks of brain damage occurring as a result of the procedure.

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