Thursday, December 14, 2006

Congenital AVMs and the United States Senate:

Majority control of the United States Senate lies a bit in balance with one of the senators of the leading party in hospital after suffering a brain hemorrhage. I thought this might be a good time to focus on the nature of the condition that led to the hemorrhaging in the senator’s brain. The senator suffered from what is called a "congenital arteriovenous malformation". Even if the name sounds a little foreboding, this is relatively simple to understand.

Normally, arteries carry blood containing oxygen from the heart to the brain, and veins carry blood with less oxygen away from the brain and back to the heart. When an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) occurs, a tangle of blood vessels in the brain or on its surface bypasses normal brain tissue and directly diverts blood from the arteries to the veins. It is estimated that about one in 200–500 people may have an AVM and more common in males than women. Brain AVMs are usually congenital but not hereditary (meaning you may be born with one but will not pass it onto your children)...

As a brain AVM contains abnormal (“weakened”) blood vessels, they sometimes dilate over time and may eventually burst from the high pressure of blood flow from the arteries causing bleeding into the brain. The bursting may be precipitated by several factors that include exercise, stress or sometimes something as common as a sudden stop while riding in a car…

Most AVMs are detected on either a computed tomography (CT) brain scan or with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan. These AVMs can be surgically removed if bleeding occurs. The other ways of treating this would be to 'scar' part of the blood vessel supplying the AVM (using a technique called stereotactic radiosurgery) and allowing the AVM to 'clot off'. There are other advanced ways of treating this inclusing the usage of catheters inside the blood vessels and deploying certain specialized materials to block off the blood flowing into the AVM. Not too sure which one of this was performed on the senator..

It is interesting to note that the senator showed signs of speech slurring and had to be taken to the hospital following that. This would indicate that the AVM was somewhere in the left anterior parietotemporal lobe (just my layman theory) ;-)

3 comments:

Vinod said...

Hey Sunil, I see your blog has taken a new direction! Sorry I haven't visited in a while, I have some catching up to do!

Sunil said...

Thanks for stopping. Like always, I live on a motocycle vicariously through your blog.
See you soon...

Sunflower Optimism said...

We have a dear friend who had this, about 10 years ago. They thought he had a blood clot, then seizures, then a stroke and finally found the AVM. He is doing great now, but was quite scary back then.

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