Mecklenburg Radiology

Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)

An arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins
in the brain. Normally, arteries and veins are connected by a complex system of smaller vessels
called capillaries. When arteries and veins are connected without normal capillaries, life-
threatening bleeding (intracranial hemorrhage) or a stroke can occur.

How do we diagnose an AVM?

MRI/MRA
Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is an important tool for diagnosing and following AVMs. MRA uses a powerful magnetic field to produce images of the brain. A special form of MRI, known as MRA, is often used to diagnose or follow known brain AVMs and allows physicians to better evaluate the arteries and veins within the brain. MRA and MRI do not use radiation and are not associated with radiation risks.

CTA
Computed tomographic angiography, or CT scans, can be used to diagnose brain AVMs. CT scanners use a series of x-rays and powerful computers to create images of the brain and its blood vessels.
Cerebral angiography
In angiography, a special dye is injected through an IV line, and x-rays of the brain are taken at multiple angles in order to the arteries within the patient’s brain. Angiography is usually performed by a specially trained neuroradiologist or neurosurgeon.

How do we treat an AVM?

AVMs are very serious medical conditions and require treatment by a team of doctors including radiologists, neurosurgeons, and radiation oncologists. A combination of surgery, endovascular embolization, and radiation therapy may be needed to shrink and treat AVMs.
Embolization is a minimally invasive procedure performed by a radiologist to treat an AVM by filling it with material that reduces the risk of bleeding. It is performed from within the artery through a catheter inserted into the blood stream at the groin and guided to the brain. Tiny coils or other small implants are used to promote clotting and seal off the abnormal connection between the arteries and veins. These procedures are performed with the use of cerebral angiography.