What is an arteriovenous malformation?

VCU Baird arteriovenous malformation

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are defects in the vascular system, most easily described as an abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins.

The vascular system includes arteries, veins, and capillaries. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to other organs; veins carry oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart. Capillaries connect the arteries and veins. With an AVM, the tangle of arteries and veins disrupts normal blood flow and oxygen circulation.

According to the Mayo Clinic, when an AVM disrupts this critical process, the surrounding tissues may not get enough oxygen, and the affected arteries and veins can weaken and rupture. If the AVM is in the brain and ruptures, it can cause bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage), stroke or brain damage. While AVMs in other areas of the body are generally not a serious health concern, they can often be inconvenient, painful and unsightly.

AVMs can happen anywhere, but they are more common in the brain or spinal cord. Most people with brain or spinal cord AVMs have few, if any, major symptoms. Sometimes they can cause seizures or headaches.

It’s not clear what causes of AVMs. However, researchers believe most people are born with them, but they can occasionally form later in life. While it’s a rare condition to be passed down among families, there are several rare genetic diseases that are associated with AVMs.

AVMs treated at Baird Vascular Institute at VCU Health include those of located on the extremities as well as various locations on the body including the pelvic region. The Interventional Radiologists and Vascular Surgeons at BVI are well equipped to treat these AVMs. Our capabilities also allow us to handle the primary treatment of AVMs that once may have required prolonged hospitalizations. Today, our image-guided expertise makes outpatient care of these conditions possible. Depending on the location and severity of the AVM, we can generally treat these on an outpatient basis by injecting a sclerosing agent – similar to how we might treat some varicose veins. This has the effect of essentially collapsing the vein(s) and having it stick together which prevents blood flow into that area. The body then naturally reroutes blood flow through other vessels to compensate and to keep surrounding tissue healthy.

If you are concerned and think that you may have an AVM, or you have recently been diagnosed with an AVM and would like to speak with us about your options, give us a call at 804-828-2600.



Physician Profile – Dr. Bailey

VCU Health’s medical staff at Baird Vascular Institute reflects fresh thinking about a collaborative approach to vascular care. VCU Health Medical Center’s Division of Vascular Surgery and Department of Radiology joined forces to create Central Virginia’s only academically based vascular center. We’ve brought together leading interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons to provide the Greater Richmond and Central Virginia region with the best in vascular diagnosis and treatment. Together, they offer area patients and referring physicians a level of medical expertise, experience and knowledge usually found only in a major academic medical center, as well as the most advanced technologies and facilities to support their work – all in a convenient outpatient setting.

Occasionally, we like to highlight some of our physicians on a more personal level. We recently sat down with Dr. Christopher Bailey.

Christopher Willam Bailey

Dr. Christopher Bailey

Where are you from? I was born and raised in Port Charlotte, Florida, a small sleepy fishing town on the Gulf coast.

Would you say you’re a city person or a country person? I’m a hybrid of both. I grew up in a small town, but have done much of my schooling in large metropolitan areas. Both areas have benefits.

What do you enjoy in your spare time? Spending time with my wife, hiking with my 2 dogs, sporting events, crossword puzzles, and golf.

Tell us about your family. My wife and I are inseparable. We enjoy being in each other’s company and have been doing so since 2003-ish.

What’s your favorite television show and why? Don’t have one. I do enjoy watching classic black and white films on TCM – a different time period with so much change in between then and now.

What’s your favorite sports team? Depends on the time of year. Tampa Bay Buc’s, West Virginia Mountaineers, Boston Celtics

What’s your favorite book? A Clockwork Orange

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are 3 things you’d want to have with you? Ability to create fire, writing device, and Banyan trees

What’s one thing patients would be surprised to know about you? I’m an osteopathic physician (D.O). Many patients I encounter are unaware and ask me what that means.

What do you like most about working at Baird Vascular Institute at VCU Health? BVI is a relaxed atmosphere with great support staff.