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Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)

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Symptoms of an AVM

Cerebral AVMs often have no symptoms until they rupture and hemorrhage. Some patients do experience symptoms without a rupture — this tends to happen in middle age, and  slightly more often in men than in women. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in vision
  • Language problems
  • Numbness and tingling in extremities
  • Hallucinations or confusion
  • Changes in memory or cognitive skills
  • Bruit (a whooshing sound that can be heard through a stethoscope placed against the skull)

The symptoms of a dural AVM include:

  • Headache
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Visual problems
  • Stroke-like symptoms, including neurological deficits

Symptoms of a spinal AVM include:

  • Chronic back pain
  • Sudden, severe back pain
  • Progressive or sudden numbness or weakness in the legs or arms

The most frequent — and serious — signs of a brain AVM are the symptoms of an intracranial or subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain, which is a neurological emergency that requires immediate care (see Diagnosing and Treating an AVM). Nearly 50 percent of patients with an AVM will have the malformation identified only after a hemorrhage. These symptoms may start with a sudden-onset headache, often described as "the worst headache in my life," the sudden onset of seizures, and may also include:

  • Loss of consciousness or diminished alertness
  • Weakness and/or numbness in part of the body
  • Aversion to bright light
  • Double vision, vision loss, or other vision changes
  • Confusion or irritability
  • Neck and shoulder pain, or a stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting

Use our online form to request an appointment with one of our cerebrovascular neurosurgeons, who have advanced expertise in treating AVMs and other vascular conditions of the brain and spine.

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Reviewed by: Justin Schwarz, MD
Last reviewed/last updated: August 2021