Arteriovenous Malformation - Health Consequences

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What Are the Health Consequences of AVMs?

The greatest potential danger posed by AVMs is hemorrhage. Researchers believe that each year between 2 and 4 percent of all AVMs hemorrhage. Most episodes of bleeding remain undetected at the time they occur because they are not severe enough to cause significant neurological damage. But massive, even fatal, bleeding episodes do occur. The present state of knowledge does not permit doctors to predict whether or not any particular person with an AVM will suffer an extensive hemorrhage. The lesions can remain stable or can suddenly begin to grow. In a few cases, they have been observed to regress spontaneously. Whenever an AVM is detected, the individual should be carefully and consistently monitored for any signs of instability that may indicate an increased risk of hemorrhage.

A few physical characteristics appear to indicate a greater-than-usual likelihood of clinically significant hemorrhage. Smaller AVMs have a greater likelihood of bleeding than do larger ones. Impaired drainage by unusually narrow or deeply situated veins also increases the chances of hemorrhage. Pregnancy also appears to increase the likelihood of clinically significant hemorrhage, mainly because of increases in blood pressure and blood volume. Finally, AVMs that have hemorrhaged once are about nine times more likely to bleed again during the first year after the initial hemorrhage than are lesions that have never bled.

The damaging effects of a hemorrhage are related to lesion location. Bleeding from AVMs located deep inside the interior tissues, or parenchyma, of the brain typically causes more severe neurological damage than does hemorrhage by lesions that have formed in the dural or pial membranes or on the surface of the brain or spinal cord. (Deeply located bleeding is usually referred to as an intracerebral or parenchymal hemorrhage; bleeding within the membranes or on the surface of the brain is known as subdural or subarachnoid hemorrhage.) Thus, location is an important factor to consider when weighing the relative risks of surgical versus non-surgical treatment of AVMs.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Ellen caregiver, 65-74 Female (Caregiver) Published: July 07

I am the wife of one with arteriovenous malformation (AVM) with many other health issues. He has a large AVM and elected no surgery because of bad lungs. He is having more seizures now after over 10 years after we found out following a bad grand mal seizure. He is falling too much and now has a hip replacement. Life is getting tough for him with bad COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and seizure now affecting his memory. I am sure his 2 aneurysms in the AVM that are slowly leaking. Very hard to watch someone go through so much pain and suffering.

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Comment from: drexes, 25-34 Male (Patient) Published: September 12

I was born with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the left leg. I went through 24 years of embolization treatments with ethanol. I finally had the leg amputated in 2007 to get rid of it, because I needed major ankle surgery due to muscular and skeletal deformation cause by walking on the side of my foot due to the pain. When I went in for a second opinion they said the surgery would fix the ankle but the underlying AVM would cause deformations about every 5 to 7 years and surgery would be needed every time. At the moment I'm currently experiencing a lot of the symptoms listed for an AVM in the head. I've seen a neurologist for the issues I thought was related to something else. They refused to do a contrast MRI/MRA, but the MRI/MRA they did showed a lesion. They said all my symptoms were unrelated to a neurological issue and basically said they wouldn't be doing any more testing till something else went wrong. The problem I'm having now is all the symptoms listed on the first page are what ive experienced since January and they're all neurological symptoms.

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