Spinal vascular malformations are a tangle of blood vessels on, in or near the spinal cord. Without treatment, this rare condition can permanently damage the spinal cord. The tangled arteries and veins can burst and cause bleeding in the spinal cord (hemorrhage). Spinal vascular malformations may grow over time as blood flow increases and presses on the spinal cord, leading to disability or other problems.
Some people may not notice symptoms for many years, if at all. Others may experience symptoms that are debilitating or life-threatening.
Symptoms may start suddenly or slowly and can include:
As the condition gets worse, symptoms may include:
The specific cause is not known. Most spinal vascular malformations are present at birth (congenital), but others may happen later in life. There are no known risk factors for the condition.
Spinal vascular malformations can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to those of other spinal conditions. Doctors use MRIs to identify spinal vascular malformations. Spinal angiography (a test in which a tracer is injected to make the blood flow visible on an X-ray) may also be used to examine the structure of the malformation.
Treatment for spinal vascular malformations may involve a combination of approaches to improve symptoms and reduce the risk of possible complications. Treatment depends on the size, location and blood flow of your spinal vascular malformation, the results of your neurological exam, and your overall health.
Treatment aims to reduce the risk of bleeding and prevent the progression of disability and other symptoms. Surgery is usually needed to remove spinal vascular malformations from the surrounding tissue.