Sometimes a headache is just a headache, other times…

By Frank Natale, Malpractice Associate

A condition which can cause headaches and potentially lead to aneurysms is known as a cerebral arteriovenous malformation.
Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, bypassing the capillary system. Although many AVMs are asymptomatic, they can cause intense pain or bleeding or lead to other serious medical problems.
The most general symptoms of a cerebral AVM include headaches and seizures with more specific symptoms occurring that normally depend on the location of the malformation and the individual. Such possible symptoms include:[2]
• Difficulties with movement coordination, including muscle weakness and potentially paralysis;
• Dizziness;
• Difficulties with speech and communication;
• Difficulties with everyday activities;
• Abnormal sensations (numbness, tingling, or spontaneous pain);
• Memory and thought-related problems, such as confusion, dementia or hallucinations.
Cerebral AVMs may present themselves in a number of different ways:
• Bleeding
• Sudden onset of severe headache. May be described as the worst headache of the person’s life.
• Seizure or brain seizure.  Depending on the place of the AVM, it can cause loss of vision in one place.
• Worsening of neurologic functions.

Treatment for brain AVMs can be based on symptoms, and is usually coordinated by a  neurologist for symptoms such as: seizures, headaches, or focal neurologic deficits.
AVM-specific treatment may also involve endovascular embolization, neurosurgery or radiosurgery.  Embolization (cutting off the blood supply to the AVM) with coils, or other materials introduced by a radiographically guided catheter, may be used in addition to neurosurgery or radiosurgery, but this type of treatment is rarely successful in isolation except in smaller AVMs. Gamma knife may also be used to eliminate the AVM in some cases.

Follow up care is extremely important where invasive (surgery, lasers, coils) care is undertaken.  For example people who undergo these procedures may have swelling of the tissue around the AVM, atrophy (wasting away or dying of tissue) from a lack of blood supply to the area, and other effects.  It is extremely important to understand what options your physician would consider to treat any of those effects.  Discuss those in detail with your family and the people you rely on for medical care.

If you or a loved one experiences complications arising from the treatment of a cerebral AVM, please feel free to contact Frank Natale at Bowers Law to discuss any legal options you may have. We can be reached any time at 410-885-6200.