Spinal vascular malformations: treatment strategies and outcome

Neurosurg Rev. 2017 Jan;40(1):15-28. doi: 10.1007/s10143-016-0713-z. Epub 2016 Apr 13.


Spinal vascular malformations (SVMs) are a heterogeneous group that can cause acute, subacute, or chronic spinal cord dysfunction. The majority of the patients present to neurosurgical attention after a protracted course with severe neurological dysfunction. Spinal vascular lesions comprise approximately 3-4 % of all intradural spinal lesions. They are pathologically similar to their intracranial counterparts, but their clinical impact is often comparatively worse. Early, correct recognition of the pathology is mandatory to halt the progression of the disease and minimize permanent spinal cord injury. The first clinical observation of a SVM was published in 1890, but it was not until 1914 that the first successful surgical treatment of a spinal vascular malformation was reported. Intervention-either by microsurgical or endovascular means-aims to halt or reverse the progressive neurological deterioration by eliminating flow through the abnormal fistulous or nidal connections, and restoring normal spinal cord perfusion and intravascular pressures. In fact, complex spinal arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) and arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) frequently require a multimodality approach that utilizes both microsurgery and endovascular embolization effectively. The goal of this review is to describe the various types of vascular malformations of the spine, their pathophysiology, clinical presentation, treatment strategies, and outcome. For purposes of discussion on the current manuscript, vascular malformations of the spine were divided into arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). Spinal cord aneurysms are extremely rare, and the majority of the lesions that come to the neurosurgeon's attention are concomitant to a spinal AVM.

Keywords: Outcome; Review; Spinal arteriovenous fistula; Spinal arteriovenous malformation; Spinal dural arteriovenous fistula; Treatment strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriovenous Fistula / diagnosis
  • Arteriovenous Fistula / surgery*
  • Arteriovenous Malformations / diagnosis
  • Arteriovenous Malformations / surgery*
  • Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations / diagnosis
  • Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations / surgery*
  • Dura Mater / pathology
  • Dura Mater / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome