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Spinal AVM

An arteriovenous malformation—also known as an AVM—is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels. When an AVM is present in the spinal cord, it can cause disruptions in the spinal blood supply, as it allows blood to flow directly from arteries to veins, instead of passing through the blood vessels. This disruption can cause cells in the spinal cord to deteriorate or die. Though rare, spinal AVMs can cause bleeding in the spinal cord which can cause permanent spine damage if left untreated. The cause of AVMs is unknown.

Spinal AVM Symptoms:

The spinal cord extends from the base of the brain, down the middle of the back, to the waist. The nerves within the spinal cord carry messages back and forth from the brain to the spinal nerves. When an AVM is present in the spinal cord, the blood supply and nerves can be disrupted. This can cause spinal symptoms such as:

  • Back pain
  • Loss of sensation
  • Lower extremity weakness

A small number of spinal cord AVMs can cause sudden symptoms, which can include weakness or paralysis due to bleeding within the spinal cord. Because spinal AVM symptoms are similar to other spine diseases, imaging is required for proper diagnosis. Spinal MRI and angiography are the most common ways to diagnose spinal AVM.

Spinal AVM Treatment:

Treatment of spinal AVMs is either by surgery or endovascular therapy. However, each spinal AVM is unique and requires an individualized treatment strategy.

  • Surgery involves performing a laminectomy—or removal of bone over the spinal cord—in the area of the AVM and removing it.
  • Endovascular therapy involves placing a catheter into the AVM from the leg (the femoral artery) and injecting glue or beads into the AVM to stop its blood flow.

The main goal of AVM treatment is to prevent bleeding in the spinal cord, which can cause permanent spine damage. However, some patients may not need treatment for AVMs and may instead be monitored closely for any signs of bleeding.

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We specialize in Spinal AVM Treatment.

At Nashville Neurosurgery Associates, we are proud to be one of the region’s leading neurosurgical centers. Our endovascular team are experts in the care and treatment of spinal arteriovenous malformations.


Board-Certified Neurosurgeon


Board-Certified Neurosurgeon


Board-Certified Neurosurgeon


Fellowship-Trained Neurosurgeon


Board-Certified Neurosurgeon

Carter Harkins

Carter had severe lumbar back pain and radiating pain down his legs. One day when he couldn’t feel his legs, he went to the hospital where he was diagnosed with severe spinal occlusion. Dr. Mericle performed spinal surgery to repair Carter’s spine. He has since returned to his normal activities!

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