Arteriovenous Malformation

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels in the brain, spinal cord, or on the brain’s surface. Normally, arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the brain, while veins carry oxygen-depleted blood away from the brain back to the heart. An AVM causes a direct connection between one or more arteries and veins, disrupting the normal blood circulation process. AVMs may occur in any of the four major lobes of the brain, the cerebellum, the brainstem, or the ventricles.

AVMs usually are congenital, or present at birth. However, they often go undiagnosed if a patient doesn’t show symptoms. Over time, thin-walled veins may not be able to handle the high-pressure blood flow from the arteries, and patients may begin to have symptoms, such as headaches, weakness, numbness, vision loss, or seizures. If not treated, AVMs may rupture and bleed into the brain, causing stroke and effects such as paralysis or difficulty communicating. A bleeding brain AVM is life-threatening and requires emergency medical attention. Medical professionals aren’t sure what causes brain AVMs, although they do not appear to be hereditary. Brain AVMs occur in less than 1 percent of the general population and are more common in males than females.

UAB was the first hospital in Alabama to be certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and The Joint Commission, a nonprofit national health care accreditation agency. This elite designation recognizes hospitals that maintain the staff, training, and technology to treat patients with the most complex strokes, at any time of day or night. We handle more than 1,800 stroke cases annually, the most serious of them within our dedicated Neurointensive Care Unit and Stroke Unit. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UAB Neurology and Neurosurgery among the top programs of their kind in the nation.

Stroke care at UAB is delivered by a large team of expert stroke physicians who are on duty 24/7. UAB has more board-certified vascular neurologists, neurointensivists, endovascular neurosurgeons, and vascular neurosurgeons than any other hospital in Alabama, along with 350 nurses with stroke-specific training. Our 36-bed Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit is among the largest in the United States. Because UAB is a major center for stroke research, patients may be eligible to participate in clinical studies of promising new treatments for stroke, so they could receive therapies not available at most other medical centers.

When a stroke patient arrives at the UAB Hospital Emergency Department, a “Code Stroke” is activated, triggering a rapid response team that evaluates the patient to ensure that the most appropriate care is provided in the shortest time possible. Our range of advanced treatments includes acute therapies such as the clot-busting medication Alteplase (tPA), along with catheter-based procedures such as thrombectomy, aspiration, and stenting. The extensive resources and technologies of our neurovascular stroke service are not available at other hospitals in the area.

After admission and initial management, stroke patients are further evaluated in our dedicated Stroke Unit, which is staffed by nurses, physicians, and rehabilitation therapists who specialize in stroke. Every patient undergoes a thorough, individualized diagnostic workup with advanced imaging technologies to determine the underlying cause of the stroke.

When it’s time to begin the recovery process, UAB Spain Rehabilitation Center provides comprehensive rehabilitation programs that are customized to each patient. UAB created a Stroke Recovery Clinic (SRC) to help stroke survivors recover more effectively, with fewer long-term effects. One of only a few clinics of its type in the country, the SRC combines speech, occupational, and physical therapy with neuropsychology care and social work services.

UAB strives to provide the highest quality evidence-based stroke care to our community. The information listed in this report provides data on key performance measures that reflect our commitment to excellent care.

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