Arteriovenous Fistulas (AVFs) Causes and Symptoms in Children

In some cases, children develop arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) before birth. Several gene mutations affecting blood vessel development have been found in children with AVFs.

Children with blood-clotting disorders are also more likely to develop AVFs. However, AVFs can occur in anyone, sometimes as a complication of a head injury, a serious infection or severe dehydration.

Symptoms of AVFs will vary depending on the child’s age, the location and the rate of blood flow. Brain AVFs in newborns can cause heart failure. Older children may have any of the following symptoms, depending on the type of AVF, its location and whether it is causing bleeding:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • mild heart failure symptoms (such as shortness of breath)
  • very prominent veins in the face and scalp
  • bulging, redness or pain in the eye, or vision problems
  • hearing a whooshing or pulsing sound
  • enlarged head (in infants)
  • stroke-like symptoms
  • seizures
  • cognitive impairment
  • weakness or sensory loss in the legs, or changes in the child’s urinary or bowel movement pattern (for back and spine AVFs)