An AVM is a broad spectrum diagnosis that refers to any unsusal formation of vessels. This may include veins, arteries, or small vessels in the body. They may form anywhere in the body at any point in a persons life. There is no know cause for this malformation, but in recent years, and with modern medicine it is a very treatable condition. If caught early, the outcome is often very positive. The malformation may be a narrowing or even blockage of vessels, or even a comes entanglement of vessels that inhibit circulation. This will result in either a lack or surplus of blood flow to a particular region. The most common, is an excessive flow of blood to an area. Signs and symptoms can be similar to that of a stroke or TIA, when occurring in the head or brain. Vision problems, dizziness, sever headaches commonly described as focal migraines or ice pick migraines. Localized swelling, redness or bruising that may pulsate or throb, and point tenderness.
Complications or side effects are dependent on several factors, mainly location and severity. An AVM in the foot may cause painful swelling, limited mobility or sensation distal to the malformation, difficulty or painful walking. Severe cases may cause tissue death or necrosis. The closer the AVM occurred to the central body, chest neck and head, the more dire the situation becomes. At a certain point, blood pressure will be greater that the walls of the vessels and rupture, causing the patient to bleed profusely.
The most sever complication being death due to Exsanguination, or total blood loss. Again the location of the AVM is crucial because of the high risk of secondary complications. Early detection and treatment are the key to survival. Treatment consist of Stopping blood flow prior to the rupture. In the 1980’s, jell foam and even metal coils we used to block the vessel. Today, ethanol and ambospheres are used, ethanol still beingost common. Ambosphere treatment yields the least side effects, however is not effective in large AVM’s. Ethanol is most effective but can result in severe side effects, most severely chemical burns and necrosis. It is also to have severe swelling of the treatment area is temporary. As the vessels are killed off, the body reroutes blood flow to other vessels to compensate. In time, new vessels will grow in place of those damaged by the AVM. Because a persons vescularisation changes in their life, multiple treatments and evaluations are often required, especially in kids and teens.
Developments are made routinely in the treatment and detection of AVM’s. A patient diagnosed today with an AVM has far better odds of not just survival, but of complete correction of the condition.
I was diagnosed with my AVM in 1986. The AVM, located off my left external carotid artery, caused a bleed to develop near my left upper molar. Taking the route of least resistance, the tooth was literally forced out and an arterial bleed ensued causing blood loss so severe I went into cardiac arrest. Again, this was in the 1980’s when no noddy knew what an AVM was, let alone how to treat it. It was assumed that I would not survive. When I did, I was told that I would have such major deficits that I would never live a normal life. Fortuanatly for me, this was in the pioneering days of AVM treatment. I am the longest living AVM patient, with such a severe case. I have zero deficits, or restrictions in activity. I am a Firefighter and Paramedic, have been for over 10 years with no problems. This is not a death centence, like it was twenty or even fifteen years ago.