Object: Large cerebral arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are often not amenable to direct resection or stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) treatment. An alternative treatment strategy is staged endovascular embolization followed by SRS (Embo/SRS). The object of this study was to examine the experience at Washington University in St. Louis with Embo/SRS for large AVMs and review the results in earlier case series.
Methods: Twenty-one cases involving patients with large AVMs treated with Embo/SRS between 1994 and 2006 were retrospectively evaluated. The AVM size (before and after embolization), procedural complications, radiological outcome, and neurological outcome were examined. Radiological success was defined as AVM obliteration as demonstrated by catheter angiography, CT angiography, or MR angiography. Radiological failure was defined as residual AVM as demonstrated by catheter angiography, CT angiography, or MR angiography performed at least 3 years after SRS.
Results: The maximum diameter of all AVMs in this series was > 3 cm (mean 4.2 cm); 12 (57%) were Spetzler-Martin Grade IV or V. Clinical follow-up was available in 20 of 21 cases; radiological follow-up was available in 19 of 21 cases (mean duration of follow-up 3.6 years). Forty-three embolization procedures were performed; 8 embolization-related complications occurred, leading to transient neurological deficits in 5 patients (24%), minor permanent neurological deficits in 3 patients (14%), and major permanent neurological deficits in none (0%). Twenty-one SRS procedures were performed; 1 radiation-induced complication occurred (5%), leading to a permanent minor neurological deficit. Of the 20 patients with clinical follow-up, none experienced cerebral hemorrhage. In the 19 patients with radiological follow-up, AVM obliteration was confirmed by catheter angiography in 13, MR angiography in 2, and CT angiography in 1. Residual nidus was found in 3 patients. In patients with follow-up catheter angiography, the AVM obliteration rate was 81% (13 of 16 cases).
Conclusions: Staged endovascular embolization followed by SRS provides an effective means of treating large AVMs not amenable to standard surgical or SRS treatment. The outcomes and complication rates reported in this series compare favorably to the results of other reported therapeutic strategies for this very challenging patient population.