What is an arteriovenous malformation?

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) has a direct communication between arteries and veins (i.e. blood is shunted directly from an artery to a vein without being utilized by the body). Arteriovenous malformations are the least common vascular anomaly, but are potentially the most troublesome because of the rapid flow of blood through the malformation.

What can I expect regarding my arteriovenous malformation?

Arteriovenous malformations are most commonly located on the head and neck, but they can be present anywhere on the body. They may be visible at birth or can become visible later in life. Arteriovenous malformations characteristically worsen around puberty. Trauma and pregnancy can also cause worsening of arteriovenous malformations.

What complications are associated with an arteriovenous malformation?

Arteriovenous malformations increase the workload on your heart because blood is pumped through the malformation without being utilized. This can lead to shortness of breath, poor exercise tolerance, and congestive heart failure. Ulcerations on the skin and necrosis of surrounding skin or other tissues can also occur. Arteriovenous malformations can also be a marker of underlying problems in the central nervous system, including the brain and the spine. We treat multiple complicated syndromes associated with arteriovenous malformations, including but not limited to: Cobb syndrome, Bonnet-Dechaume-Blanc syndrome, Parkes Weber syndrome, and capillary malformation-arteriovenous malformation (CM-AVM.)

How is an arteriovenous malformation treated?

Specific treatment of arteriovenous malformations will be determined by your child’s doctor based on:

  • Your child’s age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the condition
  • Your child’s tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Observation of the malformation (to watch for growth or changes)
  • Embolization (blocking blood flow into the AVM)
  • Surgery
  • Medical therapy (Sirolimus and others)