Expert Care for Arteriovenous Malformations of the Spine

The nationally recognized spine specialists at University Hospitals are an invaluable resource for patients living with spinal arteriovenous malformations (AVM), an abnormal tangle of blood vessels in the spine. With specialized care for any spinal condition, even the most complex, we offer a variety of leading-edge diagnostic tests and treatments to protect your spinal cord. Due to this comprehensive spinal expertise, UH is one of only 20 programs in the U.S. designated a Center of Excellence by the National Spine Institute.

Spinal Arteriovenous Malformations Can Cause Permanent Spinal Cord Damage

Normally, oxygen-rich blood enters your spinal cord through your arteries which branch into smaller blood vessels or capillaries. Your spinal cord depends on the oxygen from the blood in your capillaries. The blood with the depleted oxygen eventually makes its way into the veins that draw blood away from your spinal cord to your heart and lungs.

When an arteriovenous malformation occurs, blood passes directly from the arteries to the veins and completely bypasses the capillaries. Left untreated, spinal arteriovenous malformations can permanently damage your spinal cord and lead to motor and sensory deficits. That is why it is important to see a spinal specialist as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan for your specific concerns.

Spinal Arteriovenous Malformation Symptoms and Diagnosis

Often times, spinal arteriovenous malformations do not cause any symptoms. However, in the event they do, the symptoms are usually minor and difficult to notice. The most common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Balance and coordination challenges
  • Pain or unusual sensations throughout the body
  • Weak or paralyzed muscles

If you are showing any arteriovenous malformation symptoms, our team may perform the following diagnostic tests:

  • Angiography: An angiography involves examining your arteries and veins by using a special dye and X-ray technology. This test is specifically performed to diagnose spinal arteriovenous malformations and other diseases of the blood vessels.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans: A CT scan use computers and rotating X-ray machines to produce detailed information of your arteries and veins.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans: Through a large magnet and radio waves, an MRI scan allow us to look at organs and structures inside your body.

State-of-the-Art Spinal Arteriovenous Malformation Treatment Options at University Hospitals

In most cases, spinal arteriovenous malformations are treated with a special non-invasive procedure called an endovascular embolization. During this minimally invasive procedure, a tiny catheter is passed into the vessels feeding into the spinal arteriovenous malformations. The catheter releases material that resembles glue or tiny particles in order to seal off sections of the malformation or the entire tangled cluster of blood vessels on the spine.

Our spine specialists will determine the best path of care which for some may include stereotactic radiosurgery. This form of radiation therapy is used to destroy the abnormal blood vessels.

For severe cases of spinal arteriovenous malformation, surgery may be necessary. In a surgical procedure, our skilled surgeon will use a microscope and tiny instruments to remove your malformation and restore normal blood flow. This minimally invasive procedure can reduce your time in the hospital while speeding healing and recovery.

Contact Us for Expert Spinal Arteriovenous Malformations Diagnosis and Treatment

Spinal arteriovenous malformations are complex and therefore should only be diagnosed and treated by an experienced spine specialist. Our team at UH can help – at a range of convenient locations. Contact us today for more information about this condition, or schedule an appointment at 216-286-8888.

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