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An arteriovenous (AV) fistula is an unusual connection between an artery and a vein. Usually, the blood flows from your arteries to your capillaries to your veins. This is how nutrients and oxygen in your blood travel from your capillaries to the tissues in your body.
With an AV fistula, blood flows directly from an artery into a vein, bypassing some capillaries. When this happens, tissues below the bypassed capillaries receive less blood supply.
Though arteriovenous fistulas usually occur in the legs, they can develop anywhere in the body too. Arteriovenous fistulas are often surgically treated for use in dialysis in people with kidney disease.
A large untreated arteriovenous fistula can lead to some serious complications.
Smaller arteriovenous fistulas in your legs, arms, lungs, kidneys or brain generally don't have any symptoms and usually don't need much treatment. However, large arteriovenous fistulas may cause symptoms such as:
An arteriovenous fistula in your lungs (pulmonary arteriovenous fistula) is considered to be a more serious condition and may cause:
To diagnose an arteriovenous fistula in your limbs, your doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to the blood flow through the area where you may have a fistula. The blood flow through an arteriovenous fistula basically makes a sound similar to clicking or humming machinery.
It is quite possible your doctor may suggest only monitoring your arteriovenous fistula, especially if it is small and doesn't cause any troublesome health problems. Some small arteriovenous fistulas close by themselves without any treatment.
In case, your arteriovenous fistula requires treatment, your doctor may recommend:
To create an arteriovenous fistula your vascular specialist will administer local anesthesia to the site. Next, your physician will make a small incision, allowing access to the selected arteries and veins. Then a surgical connection is made between a single artery and a vein. This connection makes blood flow from the artery into the vein.
The increased blood flow through the vein results in enlargement of the vein and thickening of the vein walls. After the AV fistula has been created, it may take several weeks or even months for the fistula to mature.
Some possible risks associated with AV fistulas can include:
Catheter embolization: Embolization is a minimally invasive treatment that blocks one or more blood vessels or abnormal vascular channels. In a procedure, medications or synthetic materials called embolic agents are placed through a catheter into a blood vessel to prevent blood flow to the area.Learn Less
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