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Vascular Abnormalities of the Spine

What are vascular abnormalities of the spine?

When abnormal blood vessels that connect veins and arteries lack capillaries to move blood, it can cause weakness or even paralysis. Although such abnormalities can occur anywhere in the body, they most commonly affect the spinal cord and brain. When the blood supply to the spine slows, these vessels can cause pressure in the area or rupture.

These abnormalities are sometimes referred to as arteriovenous malformations, or AVMs. There are three major kinds of abnormalities:

  1. Neoplastic tumors
  2. Spinal aneurysms
  3. Spinal lesions

The cause of vascular abnormalities is unknown. They usually develop during pregnancy or shortly after birth.

Common symptoms

Often, people with vascular abnormalities don’t have pain or other symptoms. When they do, symptoms may include:

  • Back pain
  • Headache
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Numbness
  • Paralysis
  • Weakness in the limbs

How are vascular abnormalities of the spine diagnosed?

Your physician will perform physical and neurological exams if your symptoms indicate a possible AVM. Computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cerebral angiogram (in which contrast dye and X-rays are used to analyze blood flow), electroencephalogram (EEG, or a measure of the brain’s electrical activity) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA, which looks at blood vessels in the area) can help physicians obtain a clearer picture.

How are vascular abnormalities of the spine treated?

Treatment for the condition will depend on your symptoms and the extent of the abnormality. Possible treatments include medications to control pain, seizures and other symptoms; other noninvasive therapies; or surgery to remove the affected area. Stereotactic radiosurgery (which uses precise doses of radiation) may also be an option.

The surgeons at Rex Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists can help you decide on the treatment that's best for you. They specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery and are experienced in diagnosing and treating disc disorders and disease, using the newest techniques for relieving pain and returning you to an active lifestyle. To make an appointment at Rex Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists, call 919-784-1410.