What Causes a Spinal Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)?
Most spinal AVMs are believed to arise during embryonic and fetal development. Therefore, patients with AVMs likely have had them since birth. A small subset of spinal AVMs, such as spinal dural fistulas, may actually develop later in life for reasons that are not well understood.
How Is a Spinal Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) Diagnosed?
Typically a spinal AVM presents with back pain, sensory loss and weakness in the arms and/or legs that progresses over a period of months to years. The first test to evaluate the patient is usually spinal MRI or CT myelography. Often these initial screening tests will demonstrate dilated blood vessels around the spinal cord and even within the spinal cord. The next step is to obtain a spinal angiogram to study the anatomy of the AVM, which is a critical step in determining treatment options.
How Is a Spinal Cord Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) Treated?
The treatment options for a spinal AVM include endovascular occlusion, surgical excision or a combination of both. The therapeutic approach depends greatly on the anatomic features of the malformation.