Object: Because arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in the basal ganglia and thalamus are difficult to treat, the authors conducted a retrospective study to determine the best management strategy for these lesions.
Methods: The authors reviewed the management and outcome in 101 patients with AVMs treated between 1971 and 1995. In 15 conservatively treated patients, hemorrhage occurred in 71.4% (annual rate 11.4%), and the morbidity and mortality rates were 7.1% and 42.9%, respectively, during a mean follow-up period of 6.6 years. Total microsurgical resection was performed in 15 patients with no mortality resulting, but motor function deteriorated permanently in three of them (20%). Postoperative morbidity correlated well with the location of the AVM and with preoperative motor function. In cases of lenticular AVMs without motor weakness, a postoperative decrease in motor function was significantly more common than in the remaining patients. In patients with motor weakness before surgery, AVMs in the thalamus or caudate nucleus were successfully resected. Among 66 patients treated with gamma knife radiosurgery, three had permanent radiation-induced neurological deficits, and three others experienced bleeding (new bleeding in one case and rebleeding in two). The treatment-associated morbidity rate was 6.7%, and the actuarial rate of complete obliteration was 85.7% at 2.5 years. In five patients treated with embolization alone, the morbidity and mortality rates associated with the procedure or bleeding were 40% and 20%, respectively. The morbidity and mortality rates in the pre-gamma knife era were 22.2% and 22.2%, whereas those for the post-gamma knife era are currently 10.4% and 1.5%, respectively.
Conclusions: These results indicate that conservatively treated AVMs are more likely to bleed and thus produce a high incidence of patient mortality. Multimodal treatment including radiosurgery, microsurgery, and embolization improved clinical outcomes by making it possible to treat difficult cases successfully.