Arteriovenous Fistulas

Also known as: AVFs

What are arteriovenous fistulas?

The typical flow of blood through the body involves blood passing from the arteries to the smaller capillaries before entering the veins. When an arteriovenous fistula is present, the blood passes directly from the high-pressure fast-flowing arteries to the veins which are normally only exposed to a low pressure from the capillaries.

This rare condition, which can occur anywhere in the body but is frequently found in the brain, can lead to a number of complications, so it should be monitored closely.

What causes arteriovenous fistulas? 

Arteriovenous fistulas can be present at birth and may be related to a number of mutations in several different genes. They can also occur after injuries to arteries and veins that lie close to each, after cardiac catheterization procedures or following infection.

Children with blood clotting problems are at greater risk of developing AVF’s. Physicians may create them intentionally in order to perform kidney dialysis.

What are the symptoms of arteriovenous fistulas? 

Symptoms depend on the baby/child's age, the position of the fistula, the rate of blood flow and whether it bleeds or not. In newborn babies they may, if large, cause heart failure.

What are arteriovenous fistula care options? 

Treatments are directed at preventing complications and include surgery and/or blocking the feeding vessel/s using a catheter to inject material or to place a small device (embolization) into the feeding vessel, or both.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 10/31/2017 11:55:49 AM

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