Arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, is an abnormal cluster of blood vessels that can cause life-threatening symptoms. Normally, arteries take oxygen-rich blood from the heart to nourish the rest of the body. Veins then take that oxygen-depleted blood back from organs to the lungs and heart.
When arteries and veins merge before they reach crucial parts of the body, it disrupts normal blood flow and oxygen and nutrient circulation. This complex jumble of blood vessels causes high pressures, increasing the risk that blood vessels will weaken and rupture. One of the first signs of AVM often is bleeding or a swelling in the tissues around the tangle.
For Tony Capozzi, it was swelling and bloating that caused him concern and pain.
“He came into the office and had this large mass on his abdomen that felt like cancer,” describes Dr. John Garry, who was puzzled because he had just done a routine colonoscopy two and a half months before and found no signs of anything wrong other than a few slightly swollen blood vessels. “He looked sick, so I took him to the ER at Community Regional Medical Center and had a CT scan done and lab work.”