Background and purpose: Microsurgical exclusion of a cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM) can compare favorably with radiosurgery. We sought to assess its rate of morbidity-mortality as it is presently reported in the literature, and to discuss some of its current and worthwhile indications.
Methods: Through Medline and additional searches by hand, we retrieved studies reporting the clinical and angiographic results after microsurgical excision of an AVM published between january 1990 and december 2000.
Results: a) Postoperative mortality was 3.3% (68/2 452 patients from 25 studies). Permanent postoperative morbidity was 8.6%. Morbidity was never absent varying from 1.5% to 18,7%. The morbidity-mortality rate increased with an increasing Spetzler-Martin's grade, and was related to the location of the AVM. A 4.6% morbidity (from 1.5% to 9.7%) and a zero mortality were reported after microsurgical removal of small lesions of less than 3 cm in diameter. b) Postoperative angiography confirmed a total excision of the AVM in 97% of the cases (1 050/1 076 patients over 11 series), varying from 91% to 100%. c) Permanent morbidity related to pre-surgical embolization varied from 4% to 8.9%. Results from multiple or combined treatment including microsurgery could not be summed up.
Conclusions: A complete and definitive microsurgical excision of an AVM can be achieved with a high success rate and a low morbidity-mortality rate, according to sound indications and to the neurosurgeon's personal experience. The choice for a best treatment of an AVM is no longer limited to microsurgery; it is a team decision where the neurosurgeon plays a determining role.