What are arteriovenous malformations?

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are defects of the circulatory system that involve abnormal connections between arteries and veins. Most AVMs don't cause problems but some can lead to neurological and circulatory issues. AVMs sometimes are visible at birth with an appearance similar to a hemangioma, even though the two malformations are very different in how they can affect the body and how they should be treated.

What are symptoms of an arteriovenous malformation?

AVMs can be found at birth or may not be discovered until years later. AVM can occur internally in locations such as the brain, where they can cause headaches, seizures, and/or vomiting, and in the lungs, where they can cause cyanosis (a blue tint to the skin). When an AMV is visible, it may not cause symptoms for years after its appearance. The AVM site may darken in color over time. Common symptoms include:

  • Swollen, blue, pink, or dark red skin that's warm to the touch
  • Swelling/thickening of the skin
  • Pain
  • Difficulty moving the affected part of the body
  • Numbness, tingling, or spontaneous pain in the area of the AVM
  • Bleeding from the site of the AVM

How are arteriovenous malformations diagnosed?

Arteriovenous malformations are complex conditions needing complex analysis. A patient's team of doctors, surgeons and radiologists may order several different tests to get the full picture of the malformations. These tests could include: cerebral arteriography, which uses dye and x-ray imaging; computed tomography (CT) scan, which produces a three dimensional view of the brain; and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed brain mapping.

How are arteriovenous malformations treated?

The first step will be to determine the size and severity of the AVM. Tests such as a Doppler ultrasound, MRI, or angiography may be performed to check blood flow and get a full picture of your child's unique AVM. Surgery often is necessary to remove the AVM. Lasers can treat the appearance of the skin surface after the deeper portion of the AVM has been removed.

About treatment for arteriovenous malformations at Children's

AVMs are commonly treated through Children's Vascular Anomalies Center, which is located on our Minneapolis campus. By coordinating experts from several pediatric disciplines into a single visit, families experience a new level of convenience in an environment focused exclusively on pediatrics. Every child is assigned a pediatric nurse case manager who coordinates all treatment and communication between care providers and the family.

Contact Us

For consultation, referral, or an appointment, call the Vascular Anomalies Center at 612-813-7100.