Understanding all you can about your neurovascular condition helps you feel more confident and assured as you navigate treatment. At the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute, we believe that expert care means more than state-of-the-art technology and world-renowned specialists. We believe you have a right to make informed decisions about your health care.
When you ask questions, we’ll give you answers. Our role as compassionate caregivers is to help heal your body, but also your mind and spirit.
Neurovascular conditions like arteriovenous fistula (AVF) aren’t always easy to understand. You’ll likely have fears and worries, but you can rest assured that your care team at the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute will do all they can to keep you informed during every phase of your treatment, from the initial diagnosis through recovery. Because your peace of mind is as important to us as your physical health.
An arteriovenous fistula (AVF) is easier to understand if we break the name down into parts. “Arterio-” refers to your body’s arteries, and “-venous” refers to your body’s veins.
In a healthy vascular system, arteries carry blood away from the heart and veins carry blood to the heart. This cycle of blood is how your body and all of its organs receive oxygen and nutrients. Arteries and veins don’t connect. Instead, tiny blood vessels called capillaries connect the veins and the arteries and help maintain normal blood flow.
A fistula is two things that are abnormally joined. In the case of an AVF, a fistula is a place where an artery and a vein are abnormally joined without the capillary connectors. When blood is diverted in this way, it isn’t flowing through the body correctly. Certain parts of your body may not receive the oxygen and nutrients they need.
The legs and arms are the most common places for AVFs to form, but they can also form in the lungs, liver, kidneys, head and neck.
Brain and spine AVF have unique symptoms and can often be very difficult to detect. These AVF can form as a result of a trauma or spontaneously.
The process of diagnosing an AV fistula in the arms or legs is relatively easy. Since these AVFs produce visible signs, your doctor can usually use a stethoscope to listen to the blood flow at the site of the enlarged vein or artery. The diagnosis can be confirmed with special imaging procedures that inject dye into the body, allowing the doctor to see if blood is bypassing the capillaries.
Diagnosing an AVF that has no visible signs can be more difficult. It’s essential that you pay close attention to your body and let your doctor know if you notice anything out of the ordinary, such as unexplained bleeding, general fatigue or a sudden drop in blood pressure. Detecting an AVF early is the best way to prevent serious complications like heart failure or even stroke.
The best way to definitively confirm the presence of an AVF is through a diagnostic angiogram.
If your AVF has high risk features, it may require treatment. The complexity of treating these blood vessel abnormalities requires evaluation and discussion with doctors specially trained in brain and spine blood vessel procedures. Some AVF may not require any treatment at all.
A catheter embolization, or endovascular embolization, is the most common AV fistula surgery. During this minimally invasive procedure, the doctor will use a catheter to access the fistula. Next, a blocking material such as a plug, glue or a tiny balloon will be threaded to the fistula and used to close the connection between the vein and artery. Most people can go home the day after embolization.
Your doctor may recommend another type of AV fistula surgery if your fistula is very close to your brain, spine or major blood vessels. This surgery is similar to embolization, except that a tiny stent is used to block the flow of blood between the damaged vein and artery.
Using a specialized machine, the AVF can be administered a highly accurate dose of radiation. This forces the abnormal blood vessels to close over time.
Specialized neurosurgeons may be required to perform a focused and tailored surgery to remove the AVF directly.
We’ll be with you every step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond. Contact us today to learn more about your care options for an arteriovenous fistula at the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute with a care coordinator at your side.Meet Your Care Coordinator