Monday, July 18, 2011

Medical Mondays: AVM, not ATM, not ATV


A few weeks ago I did a post on aneurysms, and I got several comments wondering if an AVM could also cause serious damage in the brain. And also, what the heck was an AVM?

An AVM is an arteriovenous malformation. Before I explain what an AVM is, first we start with the normal way things go in that body of yours.

Usually blood, rich with oxygen from the lungs, is pumped from your heart and delivered to your body parts via strong, thick-walled vessels. They have to be thick to withstand the pressure needed to push the blood everywhere.

They divide into smaller vessels (eventually to tiny capillaries), drop off their oxygen, pick up the carbon dioxide, and regroup into larger, thin-walled vessels of your veins.

Then back to the right side of the heart, a pump to the lungs to pick up more oxygen, back again now to the left side of the heart, and a huge pump to start it all over again.

An AVM is a malformation where the artery goes directly to a vein and bypasses all the smaller vessels. It can be a tangle of vessels, and can be found in the brain or other organs.

Who gets them? Usually they're congenital, meaning you're born with them. They occur in 0.1% of the population, about 1/10 the number of people with brain aneurysms. People between the age of 10-40 are the ones who usually experience a problem with them.

Why are they bad? Well, they tend to bleed easily. Veins aren't used to withstanding the pressure directly from arteries. Even unruptured, they can cause seizures, headaches, and neurological problems.

How are they treated? By surgery, radiation, or embolization (something is put inside the AVM to block it off).

Now you all know about AVMs. And you can use have your characters suffer from them.

(Poor characters!)

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.

35 comments:

Sarah said...

Very informative, as always, Lydia. This is such a resource!

Laura Pauling said...

If and when I need my character to suffer something I'll come here and comb through your archives!

mooderino said...

Another fascinating post. Cheers.
mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love these medical posts. :D

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Or villains!

Connie Keller said...

Wow. When our friend had an AVM, I read all kinds of stuff written about it on medical websites. None of it was as clear as your post. They should hire you to write.

Old Kitty said...

This sounds so awful! Oh dear!!!

Thanks for the lowdown on AVM! Take care
x

B.E. Sanderson said...

For as rare as they are, they sure use AVMs a lot on TV. LOL Thanks for explaining what they are. =o)

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

The poor world of fiction will suddenly be awash with AVM... the apocalypse is upon us! AVM zombies!

Carol Kilgore said...

I just love learning all about these things in language that's easy to understand. Thanks!

Alleged Author said...

But if they put something in you to block off the blood flow or whatnot, can that then come unstuck and cause an aneurysm?

Suze said...

'0.1% of the population'

Wow. I had a great-aunt who passed of one.

Linda Gray said...

This is a GREAT one for writers. Causes difficult symptoms and can be in various organs. Is it hard to diagnose?

Clarissa Draper said...

Always a favorite weekly post for me.

I have a question: I have a character with JANZ (it's a type of epilepsy that starts when a person is a teenager but lasts throughout adulthood) and he suffers from both myoclonic jerks and tonic-clonic seizures. Because of this epileptic syndrome, stress, and the medication he is taking, he us unable to have an erection. Does this sound plausible? Are there types of medication he can take to counteract this side effect and would it have side effects or drug interactions?

Clarissa Draper said...

Always a favorite weekly post for me.

I have a question: I have a character with JANZ (it's a type of epilepsy that starts when a person is a teenager but lasts throughout adulthood) and he suffers from both myoclonic jerks and tonic-clonic seizures. Because of this epileptic syndrome, stress, and the medication he is taking, he us unable to have an erection. Does this sound plausible? Are there types of medication he can take to counteract this side effect and would it have side effects or drug interactions?

vbtremper said...

"Now you all know about AVMs. And you can have your characters suffer from them.

(Poor characters!)"

Hahahahahaha! Poor characters, indeed.

-Vicki

Heather said...

Wow, you're born with them?! Interesting stuff. Taking notes...

Robert Guthrie said...

Thank you for helping me be smarter!

Olga said...

Having read your posts, I am considering changing my professions and writing detective stories. Every time.

M Pax said...

Can our characters breathe at this point? lol Another interesting post, Lydia.

Slamdunk said...

Good stuff Dr. Now I can use this with my doctor relatives and writer friends and sound a little intelligent.

Karen Lange said...

Interesting stuff, thanks Lydia!

Kelly said...

I always learn something here!!

Emy Shin said...

This is so interesting, Lydia! I've learned, very cursory for my anatomy classes, the differences in arterial and venous pressure, and that it's possible for an artery to go directly to a vein, but reading about the medical consequences of such genetic defects is fascinating, scary, and sad at the same time.

Thanks for sharing your wealth of medical knowledge with us!

Munk said...

Is all this stuff written down somewhere so that doctors can find it easily? Except in blogs, of course.

lbdiamond said...

Nice post! You make things so easy to understand--bravo!

Jemi Fraser said...

So clearly explained, thank you! :)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Born with them, huh? Ouch. The human body is so intricate and fragile in certain respects, it is a wonder more does not go wrong with us! Roland

Theresa Milstein said...

Poor characters indeed! Good to know I'm so old, I'm out of the woods for AVM. Though those other old people diseases are waiting for me around the bend.

Jennifer Hillier said...

You know, I actually think I could do well in an Anatomy class if it was taught by you, because you explain everything so well!

Jayne said...

God Lydia, the Monday posts make me anxious, but freakishly keep coming back for more! My daughter was born with ASD/VSD (I know, totally different), and that was anxiety enough for her first five little years of life.

Fortunately, the condition resolved on its own with no surgical assistance. It's amazing all the weird things that can go wrong with the body. But just as amazing how it can heal itself.

Donna Hole said...

Very very interesting. Now, who can I murder with this info . .

......dhole

Matthew MacNish said...

Your knowledge knows no bounds, Lydia.

notesfromnadir said...

Good thing it's so rare. I also think you're giving away some ideas to writers & we may be reading about characters w/ this disorder or seeing them in the movies/on TV in the future!

Tamara Narayan said...

Sounds like a quick way to get rid of a character. How about an aneurysm while driving? Or skiing. Hmmm, the possibilities are endless.

 
ALL CONTENT © 2012 THE WORD IS MY OYSTER / BLOG DESIGN © 2012 SMITTEN BLOG DESIGNS