What is an arteriovenous malformation (AVM)?

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a flaw in the construction of an artery. In the ordinary course of events, arteries carry the blood that flows towards tissues and organs. If too many arteries are in place, too much blood will arrive at the location of the arteriovenous malformation.

Symptoms and complaints from arteriovenous malformations

Due to the abundance of blood, an AVM may be hotter, swollen and red. Sometimes there may be a pulsating sensation. The blood flow away from the organs is carried by the veins. In cases of AVM the veins will also have to drain a lot of blood and be wider than normal. The appearance of an AVM is dependent upon its size and extent and may be no more than a red spot on the skin (similar to a port wine stain). Sometimes the defect lies deeper and the spot may be painful or sensitive. In addition, swelling often occurs. In some cases an ulcer may develop within an AVM. Sizeable AVMs can be too much of a burden on the heart, disabling general blood supply and hence cause heart failure. Over all, arteriovenous malformations may often generate many symptoms and complaints.

Causes of arteriovenous malformations

Sometimes an arteriovenous malformation develops after a physical injury (trauma). Often the malformation is already present at birth, but only manifests itself for the first time at a later age (for example during adolescence). Pregnant women may experience a substantial increase in the number of complaints.

Treatment of arteriovenous malformations

Treatment may take the form of a procedure involving injection with alcohol under anaesthetic (embolization). This procedure often requires multiple sessions. Beforehand we do an extensive survey of the nature and scale of the affliction, using contrast imaging (angiography) and a scan.

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