Background: Anatomic diversity among cerebellar arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) calls for a classification that is intuitive and surgically informative. Selection tools like the Spetzler-Martin grading system are designed to work best with cerebral AVMs but have shortcomings with cerebellar AVMs.
Objective: To define subtypes of cerebellar AVMs that clarify anatomy and surgical management, to determine results according to subtypes, and to compare predictive accuracies of the Spetzler-Martin and supplementary systems.
Methods: From a consecutive surgical series of 500 patients, 60 had cerebellar AVMs, 39 had brainstem AVMs and were excluded, and 401 had cerebral AVMs.
Results: Cerebellar AVM subtypes were as follows: 18 vermian, 13 suboccipital, 12 tentorial, 12 petrosal, and 5 tonsillar. Patients with tonsillar and tentorial AVMs fared best. Cerebellar AVMs presented with hemorrhage more than cerebral AVMs (P < .001). Cerebellar AVMs were more likely to drain deep (P = .04) and less likely to be eloquent (P < .001). The predictive accuracy of the supplementary grade was better than that of the Spetzler-Martin grade with cerebellar AVMs (areas under the receiver-operating characteristic curve, 0.74 and 0.59, respectively). The predictive accuracy of the supplementary system was consistent for cerebral and cerebellar AVMs, whereas that of the Spetzler-Martin system was greater with cerebral AVMs.
Conclusion: Patients with cerebellar AVMs present with hemorrhage more often than patients with cerebral AVMs, justifying an aggressive treatment posture. The supplementary system is better than the Spetzler-Martin system at predicting outcomes after cerebellar AVM resection. Key components of the Spetzler-Martin system such as venous drainage and eloquence are distorted by cerebellar anatomy in ways that components of the supplementary system are not.