Symptoms of an AVM

Cerebral AVMs often have no symptoms until they rupture and hemorrhage. Some patients do experience symptoms without a rupture — this tends to happen in middle age, and  slightly more often in men than in women. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in vision
  • Language problems
  • Numbness and tingling in extremities
  • Hallucinations or confusion
  • Changes in memory or cognitive skills
  • Bruit (a whooshing sound that can be heard through a stethoscope placed against the skull)

The symptoms of a dural AVM include:

  • Headache
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Visual problems
  • Stroke-like symptoms, including neurological deficits

Symptoms of a spinal AVM include:

  • Chronic back pain
  • Sudden, severe back pain
  • Progressive or sudden numbness or weakness in the legs or arms

The most frequent — and serious — signs of a brain AVM are the symptoms of an intracranial or subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain, which is a neurological emergency that requires immediate care (see Diagnosing and Treating an AVM). Nearly 50 percent of patients with an AVM will have the malformation identified only after a hemorrhage. These symptoms may start with a sudden-onset headache, often described as "the worst headache in my life," the sudden onset of seizures, and may also include:

  • Loss of consciousness or diminished alertness
  • Weakness and/or numbness in part of the body
  • Aversion to bright light
  • Double vision, vision loss, or other vision changes
  • Confusion or irritability
  • Neck and shoulder pain, or a stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting

Use our online form to request an appointment with one of our cerebrovascular neurosurgeons, who have advanced expertise in treating AVMs and other vascular conditions of the brain and spine.

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This Is Your Brain With Dr. Phil Stieg: AVMs (What treatment option is best for you?)

This Is Your Brain: AVMs
Dr. Philip E. Stieg, neurosurgeon-in-chief of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, reveals the four questions you should ask your doctor about your AVM

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Our Care Team

  • Chair and Neurosurgeon-in-Chief
  • Margaret and Robert J. Hariri, MD ’87, PhD ’87 Professor of Neurological Surgery
Phone: 212-746-4684
  • Director of Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventional Neuroradiology
  • Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery
  • Fellowship Director, Endovascular Neurosurgery
Phone: 212-746-5149
  • Director of Cerebrovascular and Endovascular Neurosurgery, NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist
Phone: 718-780-3070
  • Assistant Professor of Radiology in Neurological Surgery (Manhattan and Queens)
Phone: 212-746-2821 (Manhattan) or 718-303-3739 (Queens)
  • Professor of Radiology in Neurological Surgery
Phone: 212-746-4998
  • Victor and Tara Menezes Clinical Scholar in Neuroscience
  • Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery in Pediatrics
Phone: 212-746-2363
  • Associate Professor, Neurological Surgery
Phone: 718-670-1837
  • Director, Neurosurgical Radiosurgery
  • Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery
Phone: 212-746-2438
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery (Brooklyn and Manhattan)
Phone: 212-746-2821 (Manhattan); 718-780-3070 (Brooklyn)

Reviewed by: Justin Schwarz, MD
Last reviewed/last updated: March 2024

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