Objective: A consecutive series of microsurgically treated small arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), up to 3 cm in diameter, which are theoretically ideal candidates for radiosurgery or embolization, is described. We intended to elucidate the safety and efficacy of the microsurgical removal of AVMs, as compared with the results for radiosurgery and embolization reported in the literature.
Methods: Sixty-two patients (32 female and 30 male patients) ranging in age from 7 to 72 years (mean age, 33.3 yr) were included in the series. Of these, 46.8% presented with intracerebral hemorrhage and 24.2% presented with seizures. The 62 patients underwent microsurgical removal of their small (<3 cm) cerebral AVMs by the same surgeon. Twenty-six AVMs (41.9%) were assigned Spetzler-Martin Grade I, 24 (38.7%) were assigned Grade II, and 12 (19.4%) were assigned Grade III. Thirty-three AVMs (53.2%) were located in eloquent brain regions. All patients underwent postoperative control angiography and clinical follow-up after 3 and 6 months.
Results: The AVMs were extirpated, as confirmed by angiography, in all except one patient, thereby accounting for a 98.4% success rate per angiographic findings. The rate of immediate new postoperative neurological deficits or worsening of preexisting neurological deficits was 27.4%, and the rate of permanent significant neurological deficits was 3.2% at late follow-up. The rate of permanent significant deficits occurring after the microsurgical removal of small AVMs in eloquent regions was 6.1%. The mortality rate in the reported series was 0%. The surgical morbidity rate was 9.7%.
Conclusion: Microsurgery for small AVMs is superior to radiosurgery or interventional neuroradiology because of its high rate of efficacy and low rate of permanent morbidity and because immediate cure of the AVMs can be achieved in the vast majority of patients. The place for radiosurgery in the treatment of small AVMs needs to be more sharply defined after careful assessment of relevant cases by an experienced vascular neurosurgeon.