Pulmonary arteriovenous fistula is a condition in which an abnormal connection (fistula) develops between an artery and vein in the lungs. As a result, blood passes through the lungs without receiving enough oxygen.
Arteriovenous malformation - pulmonary
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Pulmonary arteriovenous fistulas are usually the result of a genetic (inherited) disease that causes the blood vessels of the lung to develop abnormally. Fistulas also can be a complication of liver disease.
Patients with Rendu-Osler-Weber disease (ROWD) -- also called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasis (HHT) -- often have abnormal blood vessels in many parts of the body.
Many people have no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they can include:
A small number of patients who have no symptoms may not need treatment. For most patients with fistulas, the treatment of choice is to block the fistula during an arteriogram (embolization).
Some patients may need surgery to remove the abnormal vessels and nearby lung tissue.
When arteriovenous fistulas are caused by liver disease, the treatment is a liver transplant.
The outlook for patients with HHT is not as good as for those without HHT. For patients with HHT, surgery to remove the abnormal vessels usually has a good outcome, and the condition is not likely to return.
Major complications after treatment for this condition are unusual. Complications may include:
Bleeding in the lung
Blood clot that travels from the lungs to the arms, legs, or brain (paradoxical embolism)
Infection in the brain or heart valve
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you often have nosebleeds or difficulty breathing, especially if you also have a history of HHT.
Because this condition is often genetic, prevention is not usually possible.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Denis Hadijiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.