Vascular Malformations

What are Arteriovenous Malformations?

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are defects of the circulatory system that are generally believed to arise during embryonic or fetal development or soon after birth.  Although AVMs can develop in many different sites, those located in the brain or spinal cord can have especially widespread effects on the body.

The multidisciplinary team at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has expertise in the full range of treatment options for AVMs. Our facility is considered a tertiary referral center, providing second opinion and treatment for the most complex AVM cases.

Symptoms of AVM

People with neurological AVMs may experience few if any, significant symptoms.  However, AVMs pose a risk for hemorrhage and seizures and are often discovered in the setting of these presentations.

Seizures and headaches are the most generalized symptoms.  AVMs also can cause a wide range of more specific neurological symptoms that vary from person to person, depending primarily upon the location of the AVM.

Such symptoms may include: 

  • Muscle weakness or paralysis
  • Loss of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Visual disturbances
  • Problems speaking or understanding language
  • Abnormal sensations
    • Numbness
    • tingling
    • spontaneous pain
  • Memory deficits
  • Mental confusion

Treatment for AVMs


In embolization, materials such as medical glue, metal coils, or plugs are put into the AVM through a catheter, which is inserted through a blood vessel. These materials help to block blood flow. Embolization is often done through an artery or a vein connected to the AVM. Once an AVM is blocked, blood stops flowing into it, causing the AVM to shrink.


The surgeon performs a procedure called a craniotomy, where a small opening is made in the skull to gain access to the AVM. The surgeon then removes abnormal veins and arteries, before redirecting the blood flow to prevent future leaks or potential bursts.


Beams of highly energized photons (light particles) are directed at the AVM using a tool called a Gamma Knife. Photon exposure causes the AVM to shrink and become scarred, closing abnormal blood vessels, effectively stopping blood from flowing through them. This process also reduces the risk of bleeding, making the AVM easier to treat during open surgical techniques.

Arteriovenous Malformation Treatment at the University of Illinois Neurosurgery Department

Our team of neurosurgeons specializes in the treatment and diagnosis of rare and complex neurological conditions and disorders. We often treat patients who have been unable to receive the care they truly need. If you are suffering from a complex neurological condition, refer to our contact page to correspond with a member of our team about a consultation!

Cavernous Malformations

What are Cavernous Malformations?

Cavernous malformations (CMs) are vascular abnormalities that can develop within the brain or spinal cord leading to leakage of blood.  CMs can be hereditary, a condition typically leading to multiple CMs, or arise sporadically without a genetic history.

The multidisciplinary team at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has expertise in the treatment of complex CMs. Our facility is considered a tertiary referral center, providing opinions and treatment for CMs, including those that have been considered untreatable.