Vein of Galen malformation: diagnosis and management

Neurosurgery. 1987 May;20(5):747-58. doi: 10.1227/00006123-198705000-00013.


The vein of Galen malformation is a midline arteriovenous fistula with aneurysmal dilatation of the vein of Galen. The clinical details of diagnosis and treatment in 13 patients with such lesions together with a review of 232 cases collected from the literature are presented in this report. There were 132 males, 77 females, and 36 cases in which the sex was not stated. Eighty patients presented as neonates, 82 were 1 to 12 months old, 39 were 1 to 5 years old, 22 were 6 to 20 years old, and 22 were over the age of 20. The most common presenting symptoms were congestive cardiac failure (110 cases), raised intracranial pressure secondary to hydrocephalus (94 cases), cranial bruit (57 cases), focal neurological deficit (37), seizures (26 cases), and hemorrhage (25 cases). The most characteristic vascular supply to the midline fistula involved multiple bilateral vessels, although bilateral posterior cerebral and unilateral posterior cerebral supply was relatively common. The overall figures for treatment and outcome showed that 91 patients (37.1%) were treated by direct operation and 29 patients (11.3%) were treated by other forms of operation, predominantly shunting or remote vessel ligation. Forty-six patients (18.8%) were treated by medical means (digoxin, diuretics, and ventilatory support). In 79 patients (22.2%), there was no treatment or no details of treatment were available. There was an overall series mortality of 55.6% (no details were available in 33 cases) and a 37.4% mortality for surgically treated cases. After operation, there was a 46.3% incidence of significant morbidity in surviving patients. Neonatal patients fared worst, with an overall mortality of 64 of 70 cases (91.4%) where details were available. The outcome was equally bad for surgically and conservatively treated cases. Operation in the 1- to 12-month age group was more successful, but still carried a mortality of 31.7%, with a significant morbidity in approximately half of the surviving patients. Over the age of 1 year, the surgically treated patients had a 25.6% mortality and a 42.3% major morbidity in survivors. Consideration is given to some of the ways in which these figures may be improved, in particular a staged approach during the neonatal period, with the use of selective embolization or occlusion of vessels to reduce the volume of the arteriovenous shunt until the patient is older and better able to tolerate major operation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / diagnosis
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / pathology
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / surgery*
  • Male
  • Veins / pathology