Importance: Whether conservative management is superior to interventional treatment for unruptured brain arteriovenous malformations (bAVMs) is uncertain because of the shortage of long-term comparative data.
Objective: To compare the long-term outcomes of conservative management vs intervention for unruptured bAVM.
Design, setting, and population: Population-based inception cohort study of 204 residents of Scotland aged 16 years or older who were first diagnosed as having an unruptured bAVM during 1999-2003 or 2006-2010 and followed up prospectively for 12 years.
Exposures: Conservative management (no intervention) vs intervention (any endovascular embolization, neurosurgical excision, or stereotactic radiosurgery alone or in combination).
Main outcomes and measures: Cox regression analyses, with multivariable adjustment for prognostic factors and baseline imbalances if hazards were proportional, to compare rates of the primary outcome (death or sustained morbidity of any cause by Oxford Handicap Scale [OHS] score ≥2 for ≥2 successive years [0 = no symptoms and 6 = death]) and the secondary outcome (nonfatal symptomatic stroke or death due to bAVM, associated arterial aneurysm, or intervention).
Results: Of 204 patients, 103 underwent intervention. Those who underwent intervention were younger, more likely to have presented with seizure, and less likely to have large bAVMs than patients managed conservatively. During a median follow-up of 6.9 years (94% completeness), the rate of progression to the primary outcome was lower with conservative management during the first 4 years of follow-up (36 vs 39 events; 9.5 vs 9.8 per 100 person-years; adjusted hazard ratio, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.35-0.99), but rates were similar thereafter. The rate of the secondary outcome was lower with conservative management during 12 years of follow-up (14 vs 38 events; 1.6 vs 3.3 per 100 person-years; adjusted hazard ratio, 0.37; 95% CI, 0.19-0.72).
Conclusions and relevance: Among patients aged 16 years or older diagnosed as having unruptured bAVM, use of conservative management compared with intervention was associated with better clinical outcomes for up to 12 years. Longer follow-up is required to understand whether this association persists.