Vascular Malformations

Arteriovenous malformation

Arteriovenous malformation

A vascular malformation is an abnormal development of blood vessels. They might be found in the large arteries and veins, in smaller vessels called arterioles and venules, in microscopic capillaries, and/or in the lymphatic channels that carry lymphatic fluid and white blood cells outside of the arteries and veins. Risk for these conditions are often hard to determine, but there are symptoms and treatments to be aware of.

There are four main types of vascular malformations: Arteriovenous malformation (AVM), Dural arteriovenous fistula (dAVF), Venolymphatic malformation, and Cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM). Vascular malformations vary significantly on their potential for damage, depending on their type and location. Some may simply be a cosmetic issue; others can be a nuisance, causing a pulsating noise called pulsatile tinnitus, while others pose a risk for brain hemorrhage, strokes, loss of vision, and death.

With the exception of dural arteriovenous malformations, vascular malformations are almost always congenital, since no genetic, demographic, or environmental risk factors have been clearly identified. In rare instances, they can be caused by trauma or are associated with inherited neurological disorders such as Sturge-Weber disease and hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), also known as Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome. Dural arteriovenous malformations can result from trauma or from inflammation near the major draining veins of the brain, especially if they have pre-disposing factors.

Vascular malformations involving the brain, spinal cord, head, neck, or spine can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the location in the body, including:

  • Headache
  • Seizure
  • Pulsatile tinnitus (pulsatile noise)
  • Elevated eye pressure (cavernous carotid fistula)
  • Red and protruding eye (cavernous carotid fistula)
  • Pain
  • Skin discoloration
  • Lumps under the skin
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots

Embolization for Treating Aneurysm


The goals of treatment for vascular malformations vary depending on the type of vascular malformation. Among the leading treatments available at Mount Carmel are medical management, embolization, sclerotherapy, laser therapy, and surgery.