Spinal arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a rare, abnormal tangle of blood vessels on, in or near the spinal cord. Without treatment, spinal AVM can permanently damage your spinal cord.
Oxygen-rich blood normally enters your spinal cord through arteries, which branch into smaller blood vessels (capillaries). Your spinal cord uses the oxygen from the blood in your capillaries. The oxygen-depleted blood then passes into veins that drain blood away from your spinal cord to your heart and lungs.
In a spinal AVM, the blood passes directly from your arteries to your veins, bypassing the capillaries.
This disruption in blood flow deprives the surrounding cells of vital oxygen and causes cells in your spinal tissues to deteriorate or die.
The arteries and veins in a spinal AVM can also rupture and cause bleeding in the spinal cord (hemorrhage). Sometimes, the AVM may enlarge over time as blood flow increases and compress the spinal cord, leading to disability or other complications.
Spinal AVM can go undiagnosed unless you begin experiencing signs and symptoms. The condition can be treated with surgery to halt or possibly reverse some of the spinal damage.
Spinal AVM care at Mayo Clinic
Aug. 16, 2017
- Rubin MN, et al. Vascular diseases of the spinal cord. Neurologic Clinics. 2013;31:153.
- Eisen A. Disorders affecting the spinal cord. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 4, 2017.
- AskMayoExpert. Cerebral vascular malformations. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
- Arteriovenous malformations and other vascular lesions of the central nervous system fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://catalog.ninds.nih.gov/ninds/product/Arteriovenous-Malformations-and-Other-Vascular-Lesions-of-the-Central-Nervous-System/15-4854. Accessed Jan. 6, 2017.
- Longo DL, et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed March 27, 2017.
- Chaudhary N, et al. Endovascular treatment of adult spinal arteriovenous lesions. Neuroimaging Clinics of North America. 2013;23:729.
- Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 5, 2017.
- Lanzino G, et al. Onyx embolization of extradural spinal arteriovenous malformations with intradural venous drainage. Neurosurgery. 2012;70:329.
- Demaerschalk BM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Ariz. Jan. 30, 2017.
- Zimmerman, RS (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Ariz. March 27, 2017.
Spinal arteriovenous malformation (AVM)