Arteriovenous Malformations (and Other Vascular Lesions of the Central Nervous System)

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What Research is Being Done?

Within the Federal government, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has primary responsibility for sponsoring research on neurological disorders. As part of its mission, the NINDS conducts research on AVMs and other vascular lesions of the central nervous system and supports studies through grants to major medical institutions across the country.

In partnership with the medical school of Columbia University, the NINDS has established a long-term Arteriovenous Study Group to learn more about the natural course of AVMs in patients and to improve the surgical treatment of these lesions.

Another group of NINDS-sponsored researchers is currently studying large populations of patients with AVMs to formulate criteria that will allow doctors to predict more accurately the risk of hemorrhage in individual patients. Of particular importance is the role that high blood pressure within the lesion plays in the onset of hemorrhage. Other scientists are examining the genetic basis of familial cavernous malformations and other hereditary syndromes that cause neurological vascular lesions, including ataxia telangiectasia.

Other scientists are seeking to refine the techniques now available to treat AVMs. Radiosurgery is a special area of interest because this technology is still in its infancy. An ongoing study is closely examining the precise effects that radiation exposure has on vascular tissue in order to improve the predictability and consistency of treatment results.

Finally, several ongoing studies are devoted to developing new noninvasive neuroimaging technologies to increase the effectiveness and safety of AVM surgery. Some scientists are pioneering the use of MRI to measure amounts of oxygen present in the brain tissue of patients with vascular lesions in order to predict the brain's response to surgical therapies. Others are developing a new micro-imager that may be inserted into catheters to increase the accuracy of angiography. In addition, new types of noninvasive imaging devices are being developed that detect functional brain activity through changes in tissue light emission or reflectance. This technology may prove more sensitive than MRI and other imaging devices currently available, giving surgeons a new tool for improving the efficacy and safety of AVM surgery.

Medically reviewed by Margaret Walsh, MD; American Board of Pediatrics


"Arteriovenous Malformations and Other Vascular Lesions of the Central Nervous System Fact Sheet." National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 4 Feb. 2013.

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