The relationship between the size of an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) and its propensity to hemorrhage is unclear. Although nidus volume increases geometrically with respect to AVM diameter, hemorrhages are at least as common, in small AVM's compared to large AVM's. The authors prospectively evaluated 92 AVM's for nidus size, hematoma size, and arterial feeding pressure to determine if these variables influence the tendency to hemorrhage. Small AVM's (diameter less than or equal to 3 cm) presented with hemorrhage significantly more often (p less than 0.001) than large AVM's (diameter greater than 6 cm), the incidence being 82% versus 21%. Intraoperative arterial pressures were recorded from the main feeding vessel(s) in 24 of the 92 patients in this series: 10 presented with hemorrhage and 14 presented with other neurological symptoms. In the AVM's that had hemorrhaged, the mean difference between mean arterial blood pressure and the feeding artery pressure was 6.5 mm Hg (range 2 to 15 mm Hg). In the AVM's that did not rupture, this difference was 40 mm Hg (range 17 to 63 mm Hg). Smaller AVM's had significantly higher feeding artery pressures (p less than 0.05) than did larger AVM's, and they were associated with large hemorrhages. It is suggested that differences in arterial feeding pressure may be responsible for the observed relationship between the size of AVM's and the frequency and severity of hemorrhage.