Dural Arteriovenous Fistulas of the Foramen Magnum Region: Clinical Features and Angioarchitectural Phenotypes

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2021 Aug;42(8):1486-1491. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A7152. Epub 2021 May 6.


Background and purpose: AVFs of the foramen magnum region, including fistulas of the marginal sinus and condylar veins, have complex arterial supply, venous drainage, symptoms, and risk features that are not well-defined. The purpose of this study was to present the angioarchitectural and clinical phenotypes of a foramen magnum region AVF from a large, single-center experience.

Materials and methods: We retrospectively reviewed cases from a 10-year neurointerventional data base. Arterial and venous angioarchitectural features and clinical presentation were extracted from the medical record. Venous drainage patterns were stratified into 4 groups as follows: type 1 = unrestricted sinus drainage, type 2 = sinus reflux (including the inferior petrosal sinus), type 3 = reflux involving sinuses and cortical veins, and type 4 = restricted cortical vein outflow or perimedullary congestion.

Results: Twenty-eight patients (mean age, 57.9 years; 57.1% men) had 29 foramen magnum region AVFs. There were 11 (37.9%) type 1, nine (31.0%) type 2, six (20.7%) type 3, and 3 (10.3%) type 4 fistulas. Pulsatile tinnitus was the most frequent symptom (82.1%), followed by orbital symptoms (31.0%), subarachnoid hemorrhage (13.8%), cranial nerve XII palsy (10.3%), and other cranial nerve palsy (6.9%). The most frequent arterial supply was the ipsilateral ascending pharyngeal artery (93.1% ipsilateral, 55.5% contralateral), vertebral artery (89.7%), occipital artery (65.5%), and internal carotid artery branches (48.3%).

Conclusions: We present the largest case series of foramen magnum region AVFs to date and show that clinical features relate to angioarchitecture. Orbital symptoms are frequent when sinus reflux is present. Hemorrhage was only observed in type 3 and 4 fistulas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Angiography
  • Cranial Sinuses
  • Female
  • Foramen Magnum* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Retrospective Studies