Diagnosis

Spinal arteriovenous malformations can be difficult to diagnose because signs and symptoms are similar to those of other spinal conditions, such as spinal dural arteriovenous fistula, spinal stenosis, multiple sclerosis or a spinal cord tumor.

Your doctor will likely recommend tests to help rule out other causes of your symptoms, including:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of your spinal cord. A spinal MRI can identify a mass resulting from abnormally connected blood vessels associated with AVM.
  • Angiography, which is usually needed to determine the location and characteristics of the blood vessels involved in the AVM.

    In an angiography, a thin tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in your groin and guided to your spinal cord. Dye is injected into blood vessels in your spinal cord to make them visible under X-ray imaging.