Multimodality treatment of intracranial dural arteriovenous fistulas in the Onyx era: a single center experience

World Neurosurg. 2010 Apr;73(4):365-79. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2010.01.009.


Background: The results of treatment of intracranial dural arteriovenous fistulas (DAVFs) since Onyx became available as an embolic agent at our institution is reported. An algorithm is presented for treatment of DAVFs with Onyx, and the role of endovascular transvenous, surgical, and radiosurgical approaches are presented.

Methods: Thirty-two patients with DAVFs treated between November 2005 and November 2008 by endovascular embolization, surgery, or radiosurgery were identified by a retrospective chart review. Treatment strategies were based on the location or complexity of the fistula and the patient's clinical status. Data collected included DAVF characteristics, obliteration rates, complications, and outcomes. The results were analyzed and correlated with the treatment modality.

Results: Presenting symptoms were as follows: hemorrhage (n = 12 patients), headaches (n = 12), tinnitus (n = 5), orbital symptoms (n = 7), and seizures (n = 1). Thirty patients were treated by endovascular embolization (transarterial only with Onyx-21, transvenous only with platinum coils-6, transarterial [Onyx] and transvenous [coils]-3). Five patients (4 after incomplete/failed embolization) had surgical excision of the fistula. Three patients were treated with Gamma Knife radiosurgery (primary-1, 2 after incomplete/failed embolization). The locations of the fistulas were transverse sigmoid (10 patients), petrotentorial (7 patients), indirect carotid cavernous fistula (7 patients), parasagittal/falcine (3 patients), middle fossa dura (3 patients), torcula (1 patient), and anterior fossa dura (1 patient). The distribution of patients according to Borden classification was I-6, II-13, and III-13. Complete obliteration of the fistula was achieved in 26/32 (81%) patients after multimodal treatment. All surgical cases had complete obliteration. In the high-risk group with cortical venous reflux, 23/26 (89%) patients were cured. Endovascular complications included a stuck microcatheter tip with fracture of the tip in two patients and cranial nerves V and VII palsies in one patient. At last follow-up (range 1-36 months), 24 patients had modified Rankin score of 0-2, 5 patients had modified Rankin score of 3-5, and 3 patients were dead. Two patients died during admission due to the insult of the hemorrhage, and one died after an accidental fall with subsequent traumatic subdural hematoma.

Conclusions: Multimodality treatment of DAVFs has high success rates for cure at our center. Transarterial embolization with Onyx has become the primary treatment for intracranial DAVFs at our center and is associated with high safety profile and efficacy. Transvenous coil embolization is still preferred in DAVFs with supply from arterial branches supplying cranial nerves, predominant internal carotid artery feeders and potential extracranial-intracranial collateral anastomosis. In our series, patients with incompletely treated DAVFs were treated with surgery and those with partially treated type I fistulas had radiosurgery for palliation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations / diagnostic imaging
  • Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations / pathology
  • Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Protocols / standards*
  • Combined Modality Therapy / trends*
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide / therapeutic use*
  • Embolization, Therapeutic / methods*
  • Embolization, Therapeutic / trends*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Polyvinyls / therapeutic use*
  • Radiography
  • Radiosurgery / trends
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / trends
  • Washington / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Onyx copolymer
  • Polyvinyls
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide