Arteriovenous Fistula

Arteriovenous Fistula is the condition where an abnormal connection between vein and artery is developed. Usually the role of the blood is to flow from arteries to the capillaries and then to the veins. Oxygen and nutrients present in the blood is transmitted to tissues from capillaries in body. But when the patient is having Arteriovenous Fistula, the blood tends to reach the vein directly from artery, bypassing the capillaries. In such condition, the tissues below capillaries which are bypassed get lesser amount of blood. Arteriovenous Fistula is commonly found in legs, but it is not restricted to legs only because it may develop in anywhere across the body. Arteriovenous Fistula is mainly created surgically for use in dialysis in people with kidney diseases. Untreated Arteriovenous Fistula can lead to severe conditions. Arteriovenous Fistula which is created for the purpose dialysis are monitored carefully by your doctor for complications.

What are the Symptoms of Arteriovenous Fistula?

The small Arteriovenous Fistula that develop in brain, kidney, arms, and legs usually don’t have any symptoms and hence they need to treatment or monitoring. However, the larger Arteriovenous Fistula may cause some of the common symptoms mentioned below:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Higher fatigue levels
  • Purplish, bulging veins which you can see through your skin as similar to varicose vein
  • Reddish and swelling appearance on skin surface
  • Swelling in legs and arms
  • Heart failure

What Are the Causes of Arteriovenous Fistula?

The prime causes of Arteriovenous Fistula include:

  • Injuries that pierced the skin may cause Arteriovenous Fistula in patients. Piercing injury like gun shot or stab wound can cause Arteriovenous Fistula to develop
  • Cardiac catheterization is the procedure due to which the patient may have Arteriovenous Fistula. During the procedure long thin tube called catheter is inserted in artery or vein in groin, arm and neck and threaded through blood vessels to heart. If the needle used in the procedure cross the artery or vein during the process, the artery widens and this may cause Arteriovenous Fistula.
  • Arteriovenous Fistula in lungs can be used due to any genetic disorder which cause the blood vessels to develop abnormally across the body, especially in lungs
  • There are also patients which are born with Arteriovenous Fistula. The reason behind this is still not clear.

What Are the Complications of Arteriovenous Fistula?

If Arteriovenous Fistula is left untreated, then it can cause serious complications and some of these complications are serious.

  • Heart Failure – The serious complication is heart failure which is caused when you have larger Arteriovenous Fistula. Since the flow of blood is more and faster in Arteriovenous Fistula, the heart needs to pump harder to compensate the drop in blood pressure. Gradually the intensity if pumping increases and this weakens the heat muscles causing heart failure.
  • Blood Clots - Arteriovenous Fistula in legs may cause blood clots
  • Leg pain is also common when you develop Arteriovenous Fistula in legs
  • Arteriovenous Fistula in lungs may cause stroke because it allows small blood clots to pass through arteries to brain
  • Bleeding is also common in patients with Arteriovenous Fistula

Diagnosis of Arteriovenous Fistula

There are different tests and examinations which help the doctors to find out the presence of Arteriovenous Fistula. Doctors use stethoscope to listen to the blood flow through the area where they think you have Fistula. The blood flow through Arteriovenous Fistula produces humming machinery and clicking sound. Some of the other tests include:

  • Duplexs ultrasound which is most effective and common way to check the presence of Arteriovenous Fistula in blood vessels of arms and legs
  • CT Angiogram and MRA are the other types of tests which are conducted to check the presence of Arteriovenous Fistula in patients. It allows the doctor to see if the blood flow is bypassing the capillaries.
  • Arthroscopy – This is the type of test where doctor check the damage in joints simply by inserting flexible tube called arthroscope via an incision neat joint. It transmits images from inside the joint in screen through which they recognize the type of Arthritis and the severity of the condition.

Treatments for Arteriovenous Fistula

  • Ultrasound guided compression is the common treatment for Arteriovenous Fistula in legs. Arteriovenous Fistula in legs is easily visible and ultrasound guided compression is the best treatment for it.
  • Catheter embolization is another procedure where catheter is inserted into artery neat the affected site. X-Ray and imaging techniques are used to guide the catheter to the fistula and small stent is placed at site of fistula to reroute the blood flow.
  • Surgery is the only solution for larger Arteriovenous Fistula.

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