To diagnose a brain AVM, your neurologist will review your symptoms and conduct a physical examination.

Your doctor may order one or more tests to diagnose your condition. Radiologists trained in brain and nervous system imaging (neuroradiologists) usually conduct imaging tests.

Tests used to diagnose brain AVMs include:

  • Cerebral arteriography. Cerebral arteriography, also known as cerebral angiography, is the most detailed test to diagnose an AVM. The test reveals the location and characteristics of the feeding arteries and draining veins, which is critical to planning treatment.

    In this test, your doctor inserts a long, thin tube (catheter) into an artery in the groin and threads it to your brain using X-ray imaging. Your doctor injects dye into the blood vessels of your brain to make them visible under X-ray imaging.

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses a series of X-rays to create a detailed cross-sectional image of your brain.

    Sometimes a doctor injects dye through an intravenous tube into a vein so that the arteries feeding the AVM and the veins draining the AVM can be viewed in greater detail (computerized tomography angiogram).

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of your brain.

    MRI is more sensitive than CT and can show more subtle changes in brain tissue associated with a brain AVM.

    MRI also provides information about the exact location of the malformation and any related bleeding in the brain, which is important for determining treatment options.

    Your doctor may also inject dye to see the blood circulation in your brain (magnetic resonance angiogram).