Arteriovenous Malformations (AVMs) of the Head, Neck, and Face

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AVMs are rare, abnormal tangles of blood vessels that disrupt the natural blood flow. Houston Methodist’s world-renowned neurologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of these malformations of the head, neck and face.

At Houston Methodist, our board-certified neurologists apply leading-edge research to diagnose and treat arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) of the head, neck and face. These rare, abnormal tangles of blood vessels form intrusive connections between arteries and veins directly — bypassing capillaries and disrupting natural blood flow to the brain and head structures. 

Our neurologists are uniquely equipped to manage these rare, complex malformations. We design innovative care plans for each patient, including advanced treatments that are not widely available at other institutions. 

Diagnosing & Treating Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) of the Head, Neck & Face

How are arteriovenous malformations of the head, neck and face diagnosed?

Patients may first notice that the affected area feels warm or painful, or that it has a blue-pink tint. AVMs may pulse, ulcerate, bleed or interfere with vision and swallowing, which often is the driver to see a specialist.  

After a conversation about your medication history, a neurologist will perform a physical exam and may order one or more of the following diagnostic imaging tests: 

  • Duplex or Doppler ultrasound 
  • Catheter angiogram 
  • Computed tomography angiogram (CTA) 
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) 


From there, we will determine whether your symptoms are caused by an extracranial AVM (outside the skull), an intracranial AVM (inside the skull) or another condition. AVMs can be present at birth or develop in adulthood, and they may grow or disappear over time.

What treatments are available?

Treatment options for AVM depend on the location and pattern of blood flow. If the AVM is not disfiguring or causing symptoms, you may not need immediate treatment. However, if the AVM interferes with your quality of life, surgery or embolization may relieve your symptoms. 

If the AVM is disfiguring, bleeding, ulcerating or causing pain or discomfort, you may be advised to undergo surgery or embolization. The surgery (or excision) option is most successful when your AVM can be removed or treated completely. If your AVM cannot be completely removed by surgery, it may recur and be more difficult to treat. 

AVMs may also be managed by embolization, a treatment in which the abnormal blood flow between the arteries and veins is blocked with use of metal coils, plugs or an embolizing liquid such as surgical glue. Embolization is done by directly injecting an embolizing liquid into the AVM or by feeding a catheter through a vessel to the AVM and then placing the blocking device. 

What if I need advanced care or a second opinion?

Whether you need a precise diagnosis or a second opinion, we can help. Our specialists can pinpoint the cause of your symptoms and design a personalized treatment plan to restore your quality of life.

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Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in treating arteriovenous malformations at the following convenient locations:

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