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Cerebrovascular Malformations (CVM): Testing and Diagnosis

What tests are used to diagnose a cerebrovascular malformation (CVM)?

If your child has symptoms of a CVM, the first step is usually a CT scan.  If the malformation has bled,it can usually be seen with a CT scan. An MRI  scan is then usually ordered to get better pictures of the malformation.

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) and aneurysms often need a special test called an angiogram that looks specifically at blood vessels to get even more information about your child’s condition.  Sometimes, angiograms can be done in the CTor MRI scanner.  Sometimes, however, to get the best pictures, an angiogram has to be done separately in a special “angiographysuite.”

What to expect in the angiography suite

First, one of our specially trained pediatric anesthesiologists will help your child go to sleep and remain sedated during the test.  Then, a doctor who specializes in angiograms in children will pass a thin, flexible tube (catheter) though an artery in the groin up to the brain, inject a dye that can be seen in x-rays into the AVM or aneurysm, and take x-rays. 

After the angiogram, the catheter will be taken out and your child will be woken up in a recovery room staffed by specially trained,“kid-friendly” nurses. Your child will stay in bed for four hours, keeping the leg used in the procedure straight and still the whole time, before getting up and going home.

Why choose Children’s Hospitals Colorado to diagnose vascular malformations?

The state-of-the art equipment at Children’s Colorado is designed to fit the various sizes of patients we treat – from infants to young adults. This helps our testing be as accurate and as comfortable as possible for your child. Plus, all of our doctors, nurses, radiologists and technicians are specially trained to perform and explain tests and procedures to your child and family.

How do our doctors diagnose CVM?

CTscans, MRI scans and angiograms all help your child’s doctor diagnose an AVM, cavernoma, or aneurysm, determine where it is in the brain, and decide how to treat it.  In the Hemorrhagic Stroke Clinic, further testing (such as genetic tests, blood tests) may be recommended to look for conditions sometimes associated with cerebrovascularmalformations.