A brain AVM may be diagnosed in an emergency situation, immediately after bleeding (hemorrhage) has occurred. It may also be detected after other symptoms prompt a brain scan. But in some cases, a brain AVM is found incidentally while diagnosing or treating an unrelated medical condition. You may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in conditions of the brain and nervous system (neurologist or neurosurgeon).
Because appointments can be brief and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it can help to be well prepared. Here are some tips to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Make a list of all medications, including vitamins, herbs and over-the-counter drugs, that you're taking. Even better, take the original bottles and a written list of the dosages and directions.
- Take along a family member or friend. It can be difficult to absorb all the information provided to you during an appointment. The person who accompanies you may remember something that you forgot or missed.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor. Don't be afraid to ask questions that may come up during your appointment.
List your questions from most important to least important in case your time with your doctor runs out. For brain AVM, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What are other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis?
- What are my treatment options and the pros and cons for each?
- What results can I expect?
- What kind of follow-up should I expect?
What to expect from your doctor
The neurologist is likely to ask about your symptoms, if any, conduct a medical exam and schedule tests to confirm the diagnosis. The tests gather information about the size and location of the AVM to help direct your treatment options. He or she may ask:
Feb. 12, 2011
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous, or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Arteriovenous malformations and other vascular lesions of the central nervous system fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/avms/detail_avms.htm. Accessed Dec. 6, 2010.
- Singer RJ, et al. Brain arteriovenous malformations. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 6, 2010.
- What is an arteriovenous malformation (AVM)? American Heart Association. http://www.strokeassociation.com/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3067293. Accessed Dec. 7, 2010.
- Smith WS, et al. Cerebrovascular diseases. In: Fauci AS, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=2905728&searchStr=intracranial+arteriovenous+malformation#2905728. Accessed Dec. 6, 2010.
- Zhao J, et al. Surgical treatment of giant intracranial arteriovenous malformations. Neurosurgery. 2010;67:1359.
- Brown RD, et al. Natural history, evaluation, and management of intracranial vascular malformations. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2005;80:269.
- Pollock BE, et al. A proposed radiosurgery-based grading system for arteriovenous malformations. Journal of Neurosurgery. 2002;96:79.
- Lanzino G, et al. Onyx embolization of arteriovenous malformations. Journal of Neurosurgery. 2010;113:731.
- Brown RD (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 10, 2011.