Home > Conditions > 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.