Object: In this study the authors sought to estimate the frequency, seriousness, and delay of rebleeding in a homogeneous series of 20 patients whom they treated between May 1987 and May 1997 for arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) that were revealed by intracranial hemorrhage (ICH). The natural history of intracranial dural AVFs remains obscure. In many studies attempts have been made to evaluate the risk of spontaneous hemorrhage, especially as a function of the pattern of venous drainage: a higher occurrence of bleeding was reported in AVFs with retrograde cortical venous drainage, with an overall estimated rate of 1.8% per year in the largest series in the literature. However, very few studies have been designed to establish the risk of rebleeding, an omission that the authors seek to remedy.
Methods: Presenting symptoms in the 20 patients (17 men and three women, mean age 54 years) were acute headache in 12 patients (60%), acute neurological deficit in eight (40%), loss of consciousness in five (25%), and generalized seizures in one (5%). Results of the clinical examination were normal in five patients and demonstrated a neurological deficit in 12 and coma in three. Computerized tomography scanning revealed intracranial bleeding in all cases (15 intraparenchymal hematomas, three subarachnoid hemorrhages, and two subdural hematomas). A diagnosis of AVF was made with the aid of angiographic studies in 19 patients, whereas it was a perioperative discovery in the remaining patient. There were 12 Type III and eight Type IV AVFs according to the revised classification of Djindjian and Merland, which meant that all AVFs in this study had retrograde cortical venous drainage. The mean duration between the first hemorrhage and treatment was 20 days. Seven patients (35%) presented with acute worsening during this delay due to radiologically proven early rebleeding. Treatment consisted of surgery alone in 10 patients, combined embolization and surgery in eight, embolization only in one, and stereotactic radiosurgery in one. Three patients died, one worsened, and in 16 (80%) neurological status improved, with 15 of 16 AVFs totally occluded on repeated angiographic studies (median follow up 10 months).
Conclusions: The authors found that AVFs with retrograde cortical venous drainage present a high risk of early rebleeding (35% within 2 weeks after the first hemorrhage), with graver consequences than the first hemorrhage. They therefore advocate complete and early treatment in all cases of AVF with cortical venous drainage revealed by an ICH.