Vascular Malformations of the Brain

Vascular malformations of the brain occur when the brain’s blood vessels develop abnormally and are usually congenital (present at birth). This includes abnormalities with veins and arteries that alter the normal flow of blood in the brain. Symptoms can take years to show up and increase the risk for stroke.

Arteriovenous malformation showing feeders and draining vein
Arteriovenous malformation showing feeders and draining vein. (Click on the image to view a larger version.)

The most common types of vascular malformations are:

  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) – Characterized by abnormal arteries and veins that bypass the normal capillary system
  • Cavernomas (also known as cavernous malformations) – A cluster of abnormal enlarged blood vessels that resembles dilated veins
  • Dural arteriovenous fistula (DAVF) – A type of AVM that involves a direct connection between arteries and veins; DAVFs do not have a nest of abnormal vessels (or nidus) like AVMs do
  • Venous angiomas – Enlarged veins that drain a normal segment of brain

Symptoms of Vascular Malformations of the Brain

Symptoms depend on the type, size, and location of the vascular malformation. Most of the time, vascular malformations of the brain cause few, if any, symptoms, and those might not show up until a person is age 20 or older, even though it may have been present at birth.

The most serious complication is bleeding in the brain (stroke), while other symptoms may include severe headaches or seizures. 

Why Choose UT Southwestern?

If you’ve been diagnosed with a brain malformation, or your doctor suspects you have one, UT Southwestern Medical Center’s cerebrovascular team provides accurate evaluation and the latest treatments.

Patients with AVM, DAVF, or other vascular malformations of the brain come to UT Southwestern from all across the country because of our:

  • Treatment options – As an academic medical center, UT Southwestern offers access to the latest treatments. As a result, other centers refer their patients to us for treatment of the rarest vascular malformations.
  • Experience – Our program began in 1975 with the introduction of Dr. Duke Samson to the faculty. Thanks to Dr. Samson’s leadership, a culture of expertise in the management of brain vascular disorders has evolved. Every physician in the program has more than 10 years of experience in treating every type of vascular malformation of the brain.
  • Training – Each member of your care team – from your neuroanesthesiologist to your nurse –  specializes in treating patients with brain disorders. Our cerebrovascular neurosurgeons have dual fellowship training in radiology and neurosurgery, putting more treatment options at their fingertips.
  • Collaboration – When you see one person on the team, you’re effectively seeing the whole team. Every one of our cerebrovascular specialists reviews each patient’s case before any treatment begins, and we work closely with our colleagues in neurology, radiology, neurosurgery, and neurocritical care.
  • Follow-up care – After your initial treatment, we offer a dedicated neurocritical care unit (neuro ICU) or brain disorder patients, as well as neurorehabilitation services, all in the same building.

Our Services

Our team will see you as quickly as possible, often within 24 hours after you contact us. It’s our goal to provide an evaluation during your first visit. The first step is to evaluate your brain scans and take additional images, if necessary.

Treatment may include open surgery, endovascular embolization, stereotactic radiosurgery, or observation. Learn more about these treatments.

After treatment, you’ll spend recovery time in the neurocritical care unit and begin seeing our rehabilitation specialists as soon as you’re ready.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a cerebrovascular specialist at UT Southwestern’s facilities in Dallas, or to learn more about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.