The authors studied the venous drainage system and its impairment in relation to risk of hemorrhage in 108 cases of supratentorial arteriovenous malformation (AVM). The proportion of AVM's undergoing hemorrhage (hemorrhagic rate) was calculated in relation to: 1) the number of draining veins (one, two, or three or more); 2) the presence or absence of impairment in venous drainage (severe stenosis or occlusion in draining veins); and 3) the location of draining veins (deep venous drainage alone, superficial venous drainage alone, or a combination of the two). Statistical analysis demonstrated that AVM's with the following characteristics had a high risk of hemorrhage: 1) one draining vein (hemorrhagic rate 89% in 54 patients); 2) severely impaired venous drainage (hemorrhagic rate 94% in 18 patients); and 3) deep venous drainage alone (hemorrhagic rate 94% in 32 patients). The present study suggests that the venous drainage system of AVM's is significantly associated with the risk of hemorrhage of these lesions. Therefore, careful preoperative angiographic evaluation of the venous drainage system is mandatory for decision making in the management of patients with AVM's.