Brain Aneurysm, AVM and Other Neurovascular Conditions

The Stroke and Neurovascular Program at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin is a regional leader in comprehensive and advanced neurovascular care. In addition to stroke, physicians, nurses and staff provide specialized care for a variety of conditions, even the most complex. Those conditions may include the following:

Brain Aneurysm (Cerebral Aneurysm)

Basilar Tip Brain Aneurysm

A brain aneurysm, or cerebral aneurysm, is a bulging, weakened area in the wall of an artery in the head.

A brain aneurysm, or cerebral aneurysm may be present at birth or develop after injury. Symptoms include sudden severe headache, nausea, vomiting, visual difficulties and loss of consciousness.

Brain aneurysms rarely rupture, but related bleeding puts patients at high risk of severe neurologic injury and death. Patients with unruptured aneurysms may be monitored, or treatments including endovascular coil embolization, blood flow diversion and microsurgical clipping may be recommended. A ruptured cerebral aneurysm requires emergency treatment.

Arteriovenous Malformations (AVM) of the Brain and Spine

Arteriovenous Malformation

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) occurs when a group of blood vessels forms incorrectly. Arteries and veins are tangled (as on the right of this image) and may not supply blood properly to brain tissue.

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are very rare. They occur when a group of blood vessels forms incorrectly, usually before birth or shortly after. Arteries and veins are unusually tangled and may not supply blood properly to brain tissue. Most people with AVMs have no symptoms. Sometimes AVMs are discovered when doctors treat other unrelated health problems and perform imaging tests.

Symptoms that do occur can include a rushing sound in the ears, headache, backache, seizures, muscle weakness, vision changes, problems speaking and dizziness. Of concern is AVM rupture and related bleeding (hemorrhage), a rare but potentially fatal condition. Patients with a suspected AVM require expert diagnosis and treatment, which may include endovascular embolization, surgical resection and Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

Dural Arteriovenous Fistula (dAVF) of the Brain and Spine

A dural arteriovenous fistula (dAVF) is the irregular connection between an artery and a vein in the tough covering over the brain (dura). The condition is rare and often related to an injury. Symptoms vary and, as with AVMs, dAVFs may be discovered when undergoing testing for another condition. This is a very rare condition, so care by experts in dural arteriovenous fistulas is vital. Treatments may include endovascular embolization and microsurgical resection.

Cavernous Carotid Fistulas (CCFs)

Cavernous-carotid fistulas (CCFs) are abnormal connections between the carotid artery and the large cavernous sinus vein, located behind the eye. Some forms of CCFs happen spontaneously with no known cause. Other forms result from injury, a ruptured aneurysm or a congenital vascular disease. Symptoms may include bulging eyes, deteriorating vision, and ringing in the ears. Surgical treatment may include minimally invasive endovascular embolization.

Carotid Artery Stenosis, Intracranial Artery Stenosis and Vertebral Artery Stenosis

Stenosis, or a narrowing, of the head and neck arteries is often caused by atherosclerosis, a buildup of deposits (plaque) that accumulates in the blood vessels. If blood clots form, dislodge and flow into the brain, stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIA) can occur. Patients may experience symptoms such as vision loss, dizziness, speech difficulty, or numbness or weakness of an arm or leg. Treatments include a combination of medicines to help stop plaque formation, lifestyle modifications, open surgery or minimally invasive endovascular treatment.

  • Carotid artery stenosis occurs in the arteries in the neck that supply oxygenated blood to the brain.
  • Vertebral artery stenosis happens in the arteries in the head and neck that supply oxygenated blood to the back of the brain.
  • Intracranial artery stenosis occurs in the arteries in the head that supply oxygenated blood throughout the brain. This condition is also referred to as intracranial atherosclerotic disease (ICAD).

Intracranial Venous Sinus Stenosis

Intracranial venous sinus stenosis is a rare condition caused by narrowing of the veins inside the head that carry oxygen-poor blood away from the brain and back to the heart. In some patients who have chronically elevated intracranial pressures, vein obstructions may also be found. This finding may be associated with a condition known as pseudotumor cerebri or idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Treatments may involve lifestyle modifications, medicines, open surgery or minimally invasive endovascular treatment including stenting.

Learn more about diagnosing and treating neurovascular conditions.