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Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformations (AVMs)

By

Ji Y. Chong

, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020

Arteriovenous malformation (AVMs) are tangled, dilated blood vessels in which arteries flow directly into veins. AVMs occur most often at the junction of cerebral arteries, usually within the parenchyma of the frontal-parietal region, frontal lobe, lateral cerebellum, or overlying occipital lobe. AVMs also can occur within the dura.

Cerebral arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are uncommon vascular lesions that can manifest with spontaneous intracranial hemorrhage, seizures, or headache, typically in young adults.

Hemorrhage due to a brain AVM is typically intraparenchymal but can be subarachnoid or intraventricular.

Seizures are typically focal, and the location of the AVM determines the seizure type. These focal seizures often become generalized.

Cerebral AVMs can also manifest with headache, even without intracranial hemorrhage. Occasionally, a cranial bruit can be detected.

Diagnosis of Cerebral AVMs

  • Neuroimaging

Contrast or noncontrast CT, MRI, CT angiography, or magnetic resonance angiography can often detect AVMs. Digital subtraction angiography, often considered the gold standard, is done to confirm the diagnosis and to help plan treatment.

Unruptured AVMs are often incidental findings when neuroimaging is done for other reasons.

Treatment of Cerebral AVMs

  • Conservative management
  • Microsurgery, radiosurgery, and/or endovascular surgery

(See also Derdeyn CP, Zipfel GJ, Albuquerque FC, et al: Management of brain arteriovenous malformations: A scientific statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.)

For cerebral arteriovenous malformations, the primary goal of treatment is to prevent hemorrhagic stroke. The risks of various treatments must be weighed against the risks of the AVM's natural history (1).

One treatment option is conservative management for patients who are deemed to have a low risk of bleeding or high risk of adverse effects from treatment.

Interventional treatment options include microsurgical resection, stereotactic radiosurgery, endovascular embolization, or combinations of these (multimodal therapy).

Patients who have had a ruptured AVM are at increased risk of further hemorrhage and are usually treated with an interventional option.

Treatment reference

  • 1. Derdeyn CP, Zipfel GJ, Albuquerque FC, et al: Management of brain arteriovenous malformations: A scientific statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 48 (8):e200–e224, 2017. doi.org/10.1161/STR.0000000000000134.

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