Vascular Malformation

About Vascular Malformation

Vascular malformation is a general term referring to an abnormality of blood vessels, which can include arteries, veins and/or lymphatic vessels. They can be found anywhere in the body but require the attention of a specialist if they are located within the brain. Because vascular malformation is a category of conditions, there are different types with unique characteristics. Some vascular malformations respond better to certain treatments, so there is no “one size fits all” option. Potential therapies include vascular malformation surgery, embolization and stereotactic radiosurgery at a Gamma Knife center.

Vascular Malformation Development

Vascular malformations can develop anywhere in the body where there are blood or lymphatic vessels, including the brain – arteriovenous malformations (AVM) being the most common. They are developmental in origin, which means they have been there since birth, but they may not begin to exhibit symptoms until adulthood.

Types of Vascular Malformation

Some vascular malformation types include:

  • Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM): a tangle of blood vessels within the brain
  • Capillary Telangiectasia: dilated blood vessels within the brain
  • Cavernous Malformation: clustered blood vessels within the brain or spinal cord
  • Dural Arteriovenous Fistula: when an artery of the dura mater (membrane covering the brain and spinal cord) connects directly to a vein of the brain
  • Spinal Arteriovenous Malformation: a tangle of blood vessels within or near the spinal cord
  • Venous Malformation: abnormal veins that enlarge over time

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Vascular Malformation

The symptoms experienced will depend on the type and location of the vascular malformation. Potential symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Headaches
  • Seizures

Because vascular malformations vary, they are detected and diagnosed in different ways. For many, diagnostic imaging such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can be helpful. For arteriovenous malformations (AVM), catheter cerebral angiograms, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or electroencephalogram (EEG) are used for diagnosis and imaging. On the other hand, cavernous malformations are not visible using angiography and must be seen using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatment of Vascular Malformation

Because of the variability in vascular malformation types, there are different treatment approaches, including:

  • Vascular Malformation Surgery: This treatment option involves the surgical repair of vessels.
  • Embolization: In this procedure, vessels are filled with a synthetic substance to block blood flow through the area.
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery: This is an outpatient, nonsurgical procedure in which targeted radiation is delivered directly to the vascular malformation using technology such as the Leksell Gamma Knife® Icon.

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