SEATTLE, Feb. 27, 2007 -- South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson recently underwent surgery to repair a bleeding arteriovenous malformation, also known as AVM, after displaying symptoms of a stroke. It was reported that Senator Johnson was in the midst of a telephone conference with news reporters when he began having difficulty speaking.
Senator Johnson's illness is rooted in a congenital (from birth) defect in the brain which causes arteries and veins to grow abnormally large and become tangled. AVM is believed to affect about 300,000 Americans, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This institute's Web site reports that only about 12 percent of people (36,000 individuals) with this condition experience symptoms. Researchers believe that each year between 2 percent and 4 percent of all AVMs hemorrhage, like Senator Johnson's did.
AVMs can cause a wide range of specific neurological symptoms that vary from person to person, depending upon the location of the malformation. These symptoms may include muscle weakness or paralysis, loss of coordination, difficulty carrying out tasks that require planning, dizziness, visual disturbances, problems using or understanding language, abnormal sensations (such as numbness, tingling, or spontaneous pain), memory deficits, mental confusion, hallucinations, or dementia.
It was noted that during his phone call with reporters the Senator began having difficulty with his speech, including having problems finding the words he wanted to say and slurring his speech. Senator Johnson was displaying the signs that he was in the early stages of a stroke, in his case caused by hemorrhage from his AVM.
The national media interest in Senator Johnson's story has helped raise public awareness of AVM. As a result, Swedish Neuroscience Institute Neurosurgeon David Newell, M.D., as well as one of his AVM patients were recently interviewed for a TV news story on the topic by Medstar Television. This piece was aired by WFRV TV -- the CBS affiliate in Green Bay, WI -- on Feb. 26. To read the transcript and watch this story online, click here.
For more information on AVM, click here.
- This story was also aired by WKOW Television (channel 27; ABC) in Madison, WI. To read the transcript and watch the video, click here.