- Purplish, bulging veins that you can see through your skin, similar to varicose veins.
- Swelling in the arms or legs.
- Decreased blood pressure.
- Myocardial infarction (heart failure).
- Computerized tomography (CT) angiogram. A CT angiogram allows your doctor to check your arteries to see if blood flow is bypassing the capillaries. You will receive an injection of a dye that shows up on CT images, and the doughnut-shaped CT scanner will be moved to take images of the artery your doctor believes is narrowed. The images are then sent to a computer screen for your doctor to view.
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). Your doctor may use MRA if he or she thinks you may have an arteriovenous fistula in an artery that's deep under your skin. This test allows your doctor to see the soft tissues in your body. It uses the same technique as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), but also includes the use of a special dye that helps create images of your blood vessels. During an MRI or MRA, you lie on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produces a magnetic field. An MRI machine uses the magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures of your body's tissues. Using the images from the test, your doctor may be able to see an arteriovenous fistula.
- Digital angiography is helpful in identifying the arteries feeding the fistula and in elaborating a vascular map for endovascular treatment.
- Catheter embolization. In this procedure, a catheter is inserted in an artery near the site of your arteriovenous fistula. Doctors use X-ray and other imaging techniques to guide the catheter to your fistula, and a small coil or stent is placed at the site of your fistula to reroute your blood flow. Many people who have catheter embolization stay in the hospital for 24 hours or less and can resume all their daily activities within a week.
- Surgery. Large arteriovenous fistulas that cannot be treated with catheter embolization may require surgery. The type of surgery you will need depends on the size and location of your arteriovenous fistula.
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