Dural Arteriovenous Fistula (DAVF)
A dural arteriovenous fistula (DAVF) is a vascular anomaly formed by an abnormal connection between an artery within the tough covering of the brain (dura mater) and a vein that carries blood from the brain back to the heart.
A DAVF can transfer high-pressure arterial blood into veins or venous sinuses that normally carry low-pressure, deoxygenated blood returning to the heart from the brain. This can cause neurological symptoms and bleeding into the brain (brain hemorrhage).
How common are dural arteriovenous fistulas?
Dural arteriovenous fistulas are rare.
Who gets dural arteriovenous fistulas?
Symptoms of dural arteriovenous fistulas present at an average age of 50 to 60 years old, but people have been diagnosed at various ages. These abnormalities affect both men and women, but hemorrhages from DAVFs occur more often in men.
These vascular anomalies are usually acquired, meaning they are not present from birth. In most cases, the cause is not obvious. However, DAVFs can be associated with trauma, surgery, tumors, or infection.
How are dural arteriovenous fistulas diagnosed?
The following tests may be used to diagnose a dural arteriovenous fistula:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
Although dural arteriovenous fistulas are located outside the brain, they can cause a wide range of neurological symptoms. Symptoms largely depend on the drainage pattern.
Symptoms may include:
- bruit (abnormal sound associated with turbulent blood flow)
- tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- visual impairment
- papilledema (swelling of the optic disc indicative of intracranial pressure)
Treatment depends on the drainage pattern of the dural arteriovenous fistula and your symptoms.
Many DAVFs can be treated with endovascular embolization, a minimally invasive procedure in which a catheter is placed through the common femoral artery in the groin and passed through the arterial system until it reaches the DAVF. The fistula is then plugged with a material such as glue, a metal coil, or a balloon to correct the abnormal pattern of blood flow.
For some DAVFs, microsurgery may be recommended instead of or in conjunction with endovascular embolization.
- Date of last review: September 22, 2015