Background: Brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs) are relatively uncommon, low-flow vascular lesions. Because of their relative rarity, relatively little data on their natural history and on the efficacy and durability of their treatment.
Objective: To evaluate the long-term durability of surgical treatment of BSCMs and to document patient outcomes and clinical complications.
Methods: The charts of all patients undergoing surgical treatment of BSCM between 1985 and 2009 were reviewed retrospectively. The study population consisted of 300 patients who had surgery for BSCM. Forty patients were under 19 years of age at surgery; pediatric BSCMs have been reported separately. Patient demographics, lesion characteristics, surgical approaches, and patient outcomes were examined.
Results: The study population consisted of 260 adult patients with a female-to-male ratio of 1.5 and mean age of 41.8 years. Of the 260 patients, 252 presented with a clinical or radiographic history of hemorrhage. The mean follow-up in 240 patients was 51 months. The mean Glasgow Outcome Scale on admission, at discharge, and at last follow-up was 4.4, 4.2, and 4.6. Postoperatively, 137 patients (53%) developed new or worsening neurological symptoms. Permanent new deficits remained in 93 patients 3(36%). There were perioperative complications in 74 patients (28%); tracheostomy, feeding tube placement, and cerebrospinal fluid leakage were most common. Eighteen patients (6.9%) experienced 20 rehemorrhages. Twelve patients required reoperation for residual/recurrent BSCM. The overall annual risk of postoperative rehemorrhage was 2%/patient.
Conclusion: Although BSCM surgery has significant associated risks, including perioperative complications, new neurological deficits, and death, most patients have favorable outcomes. Overall, surgery markedly improved the risk of rehemorrhage and related symptoms and should be considered in patients with accessible lesions.