Expert Advice

What is an AVM?

The condition that caused food writer and caterer Adrienne Kane's stroke is little known and often shows no symptoms.

What is an AVM?
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A cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a rare, nonhereditary birth defect that affects less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. An AVM alters the ordinary function of cerebral capillaries, causing blood to bypass some parts of the brain and creating a tangle of weakened blood vessels that are at risk of rupture.

Unfortunately, there are few, if any symptoms, so AVMs go undetected until a blood vessel bursts. When a stroke–like "bleed" occurs, areas of the brain can be flooded with blood, causing loss of brain function in about 30 percent of cases and death in about 10 to 15 percent. The risk of a rupture increases with age.

If you experience chronic headaches, seizures, or difficulty moving or speaking, consult your doctor: A CT scan or MRI can usually detect an AVM and surgery can help minimize the danger of a rupture.

To read the inspiring story of how Adrienne Kane recovered from her AVM and found fulfillment as a chef and food blogger, see "Kitchen Confidential," in the May 2008 issue of Natural Health.