Arteriovenous Malformation

Arteriovenous malformations are abnormal tangles of arteries and veins that belong to a group of disorders known as vascular malformations. Although not completely understood, they typically develop in the womb or soon after birth and may be linked to genetic mutations. When AVMs are located in the brain or spinal cord, they're called neurological AVMs.

Although people are born with AVMs, symptoms may not develop until adulthood, often between 20 to 40 years of age, after the condition progresses, and in most adults, they cause no health problems. About 1 percent of those affected, however, experience life-threatening complications.

Serious complications occur when AVMs:

  • Disrupt the flow of blood and reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the brain or spine
  • Rupture and bleed into surrounding tissues
  • Become so large that they compress or displace parts of the brain or spinal cord

The most severe risk is bleeding, called a hemorrhage, in the brain, which can lead to a debilitating or fatal stroke.

Our Approach to Arteriovenous Malformation

Our team of neurologists, neurosurgeons and neuroradiologists treats more than 100 people with arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) each year. We offer the full range of treatments, including embolization to block blood flow to the AVM before surgical removal, as well as noninvasive radiosurgery, which uses a precisely targeted, high dose of radiation to destroy the blood vessels feeding the AVM.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Best hospital in Northern California

  • usnews-neurology

    Best in the U.S. in neurology & neurosurgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.