What is an arteriovenous malformation?

Arteriovenous malformations, or AVMs, are rare congenital blood vessel lesions with inappropriate blood flow.

Normal blood flow goes from arteries to capillaries to veins. In AVMs, the blood flow goes from arteries to veins, disrupting circulation and the ability to oxygenate surrounding tissue.

It can cause patients to have bleeding issues, ulceration, pain and sometimes life-threatening complications depending on where an AVM is in the body. It is the rarest vascular anomaly treated at Arkansas Children's. Still, it is treated the most compared to other places in the country because the Vascular Anomalies Center of Excellence is recognized as a national leader in managing arteriovenous malformations.

What are the signs and symptoms of an arteriovenous malformation?

Patients will frequently notice throbbing pain and growth/thickness of the area involved. In many cases, the overlying skin has a reddish/pink stain, and sometimes patients complain of bleeding from the area of the malformation. When bleeding occurs, it can be brisk and require medical attention. Also, the patient may feel a pulsation or thrill on physical examination. An angiogram is the most helpful tool in determining the extent of the arteriovenous malformation and is used frequently in preoperative planning.

How are arteriovenous malformations treated?

Your care team at Arkansas Children's is experienced in treating arteriovenous malformations, and will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:

  • Surgical options like sclerotherapy, resection or embolization are usually necessary.
  • Lasers can be used to treat the skin portion of the birthmark but will only be effective after the deeper parts of the malformations have been removed.


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