Microsurgery for cerebral arteriovenous malformations: subgroup outcomes in a consecutive series of 288 cases

J Neurosurg. 2017 Apr;126(4):1056-1063. doi: 10.3171/2016.4.JNS153017. Epub 2016 Jun 10.


OBJECTIVE The objective of this study was to review the outcomes after microsurgical resection of cerebral arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) from a consecutive single-surgeon series. Clinical and imaging data were analyzed to address the following questions concerning AVM treatment in the post-ARUBA (A Randomized Trial of Unruptured Brain Arteriovenous Malformations) era. 1) Are the patients who present with unruptured or ruptured AVMs doing better at long-term follow-up? 2) Is the differentiation between Ponce Class A (Spetzler-Martin Grade I and II) patients versus Ponce Class B and C patients (Spetzler-Martin Grade III and IV) meaningful and applicable to surgical practice? 3) How did the ARUBA-eligible patients of this surgical series compare with the results reported in ARUBA? METHODS Two hundred eighty-eight patients with cerebral AVMs underwent microsurgical resection between 1983 and 2012 performed by the same surgeon (J.S.). This is a prospective case collection study that represents a consecutive series. The results are based on prospectively collected, early-outcome data that were supplemented by retrospectively collected, follow-up data for 94% of those cases. The analyzed data included the initial presentation, Spetzler-Martin grade, obliteration rates, surgical and neurological complications, and frequency of pretreatment with embolization or radiosurgery. The total cohort was compared using "small-AVM," Spetzler-Martin Grade I and II, and ARUBA-eligible AVM subgroups. RESULTS The initial presentation was hemorrhage in 50.0% and seizures in 43.1% of patients. The series included 53 Spetzler-Martin Grade I (18.4%), 114 Spetzler-Martin Grade II (39.6%), 90 Spetzler-Martin Grade III (31.3%), 28 Spetzler-Martin Grade IV (9.7%), and 3 Spetzler-Martin Grade V (1.0%) AVMs. There were 144 unruptured and 104 ARUBA-eligible cases. Preembolization was used in 39 cases (13.5%). The occlusion rates for the total series and small AVM subgroup were 99% and 98.7%, respectively. The mean follow-up duration was 64 months. Early neurological deterioration was seen in 39.2% of patients, of which 12.2% had permanent and 5.6% had permanent significant deficits, and the mortality rate was 1.7% (n = 5). Outcome was better for patients with AVMs smaller than 3 cm (permanent deficit in 7.8% and permanent significant deficit in 3.2% of patients) and Ponce Class A status (permanent deficit in 7.8% and significant deficit in 3.2% of patients). Unruptured AVMs showed slightly higher new deficit rates (but 0 instances of mortality) among all cases, and in the small AVM and Ponce Class A subgroups. Unruptured Spetzler-Martin Grade I and II lesions had the best outcome (1.8% permanent significant deficit), and ARUBA-eligible Spetzler-Martin Grade I and II lesions had a slightly higher rate of permanent significant deficits (3.2%). CONCLUSIONS Microsurgery has a very high cure rate. Focusing microsurgical AVM resection on unruptured lesions smaller than 3 cm or on Spetzler-Martin Grade I and II lesions is a good strategy for minimizing long-term morbidity. Well-selected microsurgical cases lead to better outcomes than with multimodal interventions, as in the ARUBA treatment arm, or conservative treatment alone. Long-term prospective data collection is valuable.

Keywords: ARUBA = A Randomized Trial of Unruptured Brain Arteriovenous Malformations; ARUBA eligible; AVM; AVM = arteriovenous malformation; brain arteriovenous malformation; mRS = modified Rankin Scale; microsurgery; unruptured AVM; vascular disorders.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / mortality
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / surgery*
  • Male
  • Microsurgery*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult