Arteriovenous Malformation Explanation

Posted on December 17, 2006  Comments (0)

What Happened to the Senator’s Brain?

What is arteriovenous malformation (AVM)?

An AVM is a cluster of abnormally formed blood vessels. In medical images, it looks like a tangle of arteries and veins. About 300,000 people in the U.S. have these malformations, but most AVMs never cause any symptoms. The malformations can occur in various places around the body, however, those in the brain or spinal cord can cause the most widespread damage, because they affect the central nervous system.

AVMs disrupt the normal system used to provide oxygen to the brain. Ordinarily, arteries deliver oxygenated blood to the brain and veins return it to the heart and lungs. But in an AVM, blood that should be in an artery can flow through a vein. When that happens, part of the brain may not get enough oxygen. Also, veins are not meant to handle the high pressures and fast blood flow of arteries. So they may expand or even rupture, causing bleeding in the brain.

Related: What is arteriovenous malformation, or AVM?

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