Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) of the Brain | MedStar Health
A brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a rare condition that can be diagnosed with a brain MRI at MedStar Health.

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) of the brain is a rare condition that can be life-threatening if not treated. If you have been diagnosed with a brain AVM, you should be evaluated by a neurosurgeon who specializes in this disorder.

What is a brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM)?

It is a complex tangle of abnormal arteries and veins, linked by one or more direct connections called fistulas or shunts. Blood under high pressure flows through the thin-walled vessels of an AVM, dilating these vessels and forming aneurysms (balloon-like bulges). Either the thin-walled vessels or the aneurysms may rupture (burst), causing bleeding into the brain.

Generally, AVMs are congenital (present at birth). They can grow and become more dangerous over time. Most patients find out about their AVM later in life.

Symptoms of brain AVMs

An AVM may not cause symptoms. Symptoms of an AVM generally happen during an event, like a brain hemorrhage (bleed) or seizure. In those cases, you may experience:

  • Painful, persistent headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Numbness or weakness
  • Seizures

How are they diagnosed?

Many, but not all, AVMs can be identified on an MRI of the brain. The definitive diagnostic test for an AVM is a cerebral angiogram, where physicians inject contrast dye into the blood vessels to visualize blood flow in real-time.


Our experienced neurosurgeons will consider several factors unique to your case when recommending the safest course of treatment. We offer the most advanced treatments for brain AVMs, including microsurgery, Cyberknife radiosurgery, and endovascular embolization. Learn more about treatments for brain AVMs.

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Dr Anette Virta-Paras poses in front of a set of brain scans at MedStar Health.

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