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Vascular Malformations of the Brain

Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute

UT Southwestern Medical Center’s highly experienced cerebrovascular team provides accurate evaluation and the latest treatments for brain vascular malformations. Patients come from across the country to benefit from our expertise.

Our multidisciplinary team – from surgeons to neuroanesthesiologists to nurses – all specialize in treating patients with brain disorders.

Expert Care for Brain Vascular Malformations

Vascular malformations of the brain occur when the brain’s blood vessels develop abnormally, a condition that is usually congenital (present at birth). The condition includes abnormalities with veins and arteries that alter the normal flow of blood in the brain.

The most common types of vascular malformations are:

  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs): The development of abnormal arteries and veins that bypass the normal capillary system in the brain
  • 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 but without a nest of abnormal vessels (or nidus) like AVMs
  • Venous angiomas: Enlarged veins that drain a normal segment of the brain

As a major referral center for brain and spine disorders, UT Southwestern’s brain vascular malformations team offers a broad range of capabilities, including minimally invasive brain surgery treatments. One of our hallmarks is providing patients with a range of options, tailored to their circumstances.

Every neurosurgeon on our brain vascular malformations team has specialized fellowship training in the management of cerebrovascular disorders. Many of our physicians have dual training in both neurosurgery and radiology. This means the expert who evaluates these disorders is also the surgeon who will perform interventional treatment such as open surgery, endovascular embolization, or stereotactic radiosurgery. 

Whether a patient is seeking a diagnosis or a treatment plan, it’s our goal to see each person as quickly as possible, often the same day an appointment is requested, and provide an evaluation of the situation before the patient leaves that day.

Symptoms of Brain Vascular Malformations

Symptoms of brain vascular malformations depend on the type, size, and location of the malformation. In many cases, symptoms can take years to show up, even though the malformation might have been present at birth. In other cases, there are no symptoms at all.

When symptoms do appear, they range from chronic headaches to seizures. The most serious complication is a stroke.

Our Services

Every one of our cerebrovascular specialists reviews a patient’s case before any treatment begins, and we work closely with our colleagues in neurology, radiology, neurosurgery, and neurointensive care to make sure we offer the right solution for each patient. Our collaboration is facilitated by a weekly cerebrovascular conference that provides multiple and sometimes diverse opinions to the patient. Learn more about evaluations for brain vascular malformations.

Treatment might include the following:

  • Observation
  • Endovascular embolization
  • Open surgery
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery

After initial treatment, we offer a dedicated neurointensive care unit (neuro ICU) for patients with brain disorders, as well as neurorehabilitation services, all in the same building. Learn more about treatments for brain vascular malformations.

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