Although most vascular abnormalities of the spinal cord are now ascribed to an abnormal communication between a dural artery and a medullary vein on the dura near a sensory nerve root, these lesions are too small for their anatomy to be demonstrated directly by spinal arteriography. Thus, it is unknown whether the site of dural arteriovenous shunting is an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), implying a congenital origin, or is a direct arteriovenous fistula (AVF), implying an acquired etiology. The authors treated six patients by en bloc resection of the involved dural root sleeve, proximal nerve root, and adjacent spinal dura. All of the patients presented with myelopathy and their arteriograms were consistent with a spinal dural vascular malformation. The lesions occurred between T-6 and T-12, levels at which clinical deficits from such resection are minimal. The dural artery or medullary vein associated with the vascular malformation was cannulated and a dilute solution of barium sulfate was injected during sequential fine-grain radiography. In all of the lesions the artery split into daughter vessels that coalesced one to three times to form a skein of arterial loops in the dura that invariably emptied into a medullary vein without an intervening capillary plexus. Several medium-to-small collateral vessels arising from adjacent intercostal or lumbar arteries were commonly present in the dura and converged at the site of the AVF to join a single medullary vein. These results show that spinal dural AVMs are direct AVFs that link the dural branch of the radiculo-medullary-dural artery with the intradural medullary vein. They also provide an anatomical explanation for the presence of a multiple segmental arterial supply and a single draining medullary vein of spinal dural AVFs, and the propensity for reestablishment of flow through the arteriovenous shunt after embolic occlusion.