Dealing with Arteriovenous Malformation

April 03, 2023


Board Certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, Jon I. McIver, M.D., is a neurosurgeon with The Minimally Invasive Brain and Spine Center at Mercy. He recently responded to questions from for a health informational story regarding the nature and treatment of Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM).

What is Arteriovenous Malformation?

An Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) is an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins. Arteries are high flow, high pressure, whereas veins are high flow, low pressure. This leads to a pressurized venous system which can cause engorgement of blood in the venous system and problems such as &"flooding" in the brain, where the blood can't leave the brain normally and causes other problems.

How can a physician treat this condition?

AVM's can be treated with observation in some cases, radiation (radiosurgery), embolization (placing small particles to block off the arterial input), and surgery to remove the abnormal cluster of vessels. Sometimes a combination of treatments is recommended.

What should people know about risk/prevention/detection?

Your likelihood of having an AVM is low. AVMs are more likely to be identified in the younger population, but are still a rare occurrence. It is estimated that less than 0.2% of the population have an AVM. If a person does have an AVM, it may not cause a problem, or can present with symptoms of headache, seizure or hemorrhage. Hemorrhage is the most common reason a person learns they have an AVM. Given the low likelihood that any one person in the general population has an AVM, it is not recommended that a person has screening without discussion with their healthcare provider.

Dr. McIver specializes in minimally invasive surgical procedures, utilizing innovative computer technologies and advanced image-guided surgery systems, such as the Stealth Navigation and O-arm® Mobile Surgical Imaging System.

About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in Downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed, acute care, university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a high-performing Maryland hospital (U.S. News & World Report); has achieved an overall 5-Star quality, safety, and patient experience rating (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services); is A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade); and is certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet™ hospital. Mercy Health Services is a not-for-profit health system and the parent company of Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Personal Physicians.

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