Left untreated, an arteriovenous fistula can cause complications, some of which can be serious. These include:

  • Heart failure. This is the most serious complication of large arteriovenous fistulas. Since your blood flows more quickly through an arteriovenous fistula than it would if your blood flowed through a normal course of arteries, capillaries and veins, your heart pumps harder to compensate for the drop in blood pressure. Over time, the increased intensity of your heart's pumping can weaken your heart muscle, leading to heart failure.
  • Blood clots. An arteriovenous fistula in your legs can cause blood clots to form, potentially leading to deep vein thrombosis, a painful and potentially life-threatening condition if the clot travels to your lungs (pulmonary embolism). Depending on where your fistula is, it can lead to a stroke.
  • Leg pain. An arteriovenous fistula in your leg can also cause you to develop pain in your legs (claudication), or can worsen pain you already have.
  • Stroke. An arteriovenous fistula in your lungs may allow small blood clots to pass through to the arteries in your brain, which may cause a stroke.
  • Bleeding. Arteriovenous malformations may lead to bleeding, including into your gastrointestinal system or into your brain.
Apr. 27, 2012