Eagles player diagnosed with brain AVM

Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson suffered a seizure during Wednesday’s practice this week. The team medics did their best to help him until the paramedics arrived about 10 minutes later. One of the team’s rookies and volunteer firefighter, Danny Watkins also helped the medical team until the the paramedics took over.

Patterson was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., near the team’s practice field. Originally, it was thought that dehydration or something football-related was the cause of the seizure. But doctors diagnosed him earlier today with a brain AVM – arteriovenous malformation. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels (arteries and veins) within the brain. The cause is unknown still, although it is believed to be congenital and sometimes occurs during fetal development. Males are more likely to have this condition.

AVMs can occur anywhere in the body, since blood vessels will run pretty much everywhere. But the brain and spinal cord are the most common places for AVMs to occur. When the blood vessels are tangled, normal blood flow to the area is prevented. In the brain, this is critical, because now it is not receiving blood or proper oxygen.

An AVM may not be diagnosed until outward symptoms appear, like what happened to Patterson. Other symptoms involve headaches and progressive numbness. More severe symptoms, like paralysis, vision loss, difficulty speaking, and massive headache, point to a potentially ruptured blood vessel, or hemorrhage. These symptoms also mirror those of strokes.

In addition to the usual CT and MRI scans, cerebral arteriography can be used to diagnose brain AVMs. In this test, a tube is inserted by the groin, threaded up towards the brain, and dye is injected. This allows doctors to identify the location and group of blood vessels affected, for a more detailed diagnosis.

What an AVM looks like before treatment

Surgery and radiation are the most common forms of treatment, and appear to be the options under consideration in Patterson’s case. Surgery would remove the affected vessels, while radiation causes the vessels to clot slowly, preventing blood flow to the area completely and causing blood to take a different route.

Vessels after treatment of an AVM.

It’s still unclear, though, which route Patterson and his doctors will decide to take, and what this means for his football career. Obviously he would like to get back into the game quickly, but with a condition like his, it may take time and more caution on his part, especially in such a contact sport as football. Hopefully Patterson will be able to recover from this well and return to the team and the game soon.