Arteriovenous malformations are abnormal blood vessel structures that form on the spinal cord. This rare condition causes blood to flow from the arteries to the veins without traveling through the capillaries.
The resulting interruption in blood flow leaves part of the spinal cord without a supply of oxygen. Important cells die, leading to spinal cord bleeding and compression. Most people don’t know they have the condition until an injury, surgery, or an unknown cause triggers the bleeding to begin.
Most blood vessel abnormalities form as the fetus develops in the womb. When the condition finally overwhelms the lack of capillaries and triggers bleeding, you’ll notice symptoms like:
It’s necessary to use contrast imaging to explore the spinal vascular system to determine if any capillaries or other parts are missing. When a diagnosis of spinal arteriovenous malformations is confirmed, patients may not need any treatment beyond monitoring.
Active bleeding causes permanent damage to the spinal cord. Internal embolization can fix malformed blood vessels without major surgery, but open bleeding lesions must be removed surgically to keep the spinal cord cells from dying or breaking down. It’s important to watch for signs of disturbance in your nervous system after being diagnosed with spinal arteriovenous malformations so you can get the bleeding under control before permanent damage occurs.