Contemporary management of spinal AVFs and AVMs: Lessons learned from 110 cases

Leonardo Rangel-Castilla, Jonathan J. Russin, Hasan A. Zaidi, Eduardo Martinez-del-Campo, Min S. Park, Felipe C. Albuquerque, Cameron G. McDougall, Peter Nakaji, Robert F. Spetzler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Object: Spinal arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are rare, complex spinal vascular lesions that are challenging to manage. Recently, understanding of these lesions has increased thanks to neuroimaging technology. Published reports of surgical results and clinical outcome are limited to small series. The authors present a large contemporary series of patients with spinal AVFs and AVMs who were treated at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Methods: Retrospective detailed review of a prospective vascular database was performed for all patients with spinal AVFs and AVMs treated between 2000 and 2013. Patient demographic data, AVF and AVM characteristics, surgical results, clinical outcomes, complications, and long-term follow-up were reviewed. Results: Between 2000 and 2013, 110 patients (57 male and 53 female) underwent obliteration of spinal AVFs and AVMs. The mean age at presentation was 42.3 years (range 18 months-81 years). There were 44 patients with AVFs and 66 with AVMs. The AVM group included 27 intramedullary, 21 conus medullaris, 12 metameric, and 6 extradural. The most common location was thoracic spine (61%), followed by cervical (22.7%), lumbar (14.5%), and sacral (1.8%). The most common presenting signs and symptoms included paresis/paralysis (75.5%), paresthesias (60%), pain (51.8%), bowel/bladder dysfunction (41.8%), and myelopathy (36.4%). Evidence of rupture was seen in 26.4% of patients. Perioperative embolization was performed in 42% of patients. Resection was performed in 95 patients (86.4%). Embolization alone was the only treatment in 14 patients (12.7%). One patient was treated with radiosurgery alone. Angiographically verified AVF and AVM obliteration was achieved in 92 patients (83.6%). At a mean follow-up duration of 30.5 months (range 1-205 months), 43 patients (97.7%) with AVFs and 57 (86.4%) with AVMs remained functionally independent (McCormick Scale scores ≤ 2). Perioperative complications were seen in 8 patients (7%). No deaths occurred. Temporary neurological deficits were observed in 27 patients (24.5%). These temporary deficits recovered 6-8 weeks after treatment. Recurrence was identified in 6 patients (13.6%) with AVFs and 10 (15.2%) with AVMs. Conclusions: Spinal AVFs and AVMs are complex lesions that should be considered for surgical obliteration. Over the last several decades the authors have changed surgical strategies and management to achieve better clinical outcomes. Transient neurological deficit postoperatively is a risk associated with intervention; however, clinical outcomes appear to exceed the natural history based on patients' ability to recover during the follow-up period. Due to the recurrence rate associated with these lesions, long-term follow-up is required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle E14
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Arteriovenous fistula
  • Arteriovenous malformation
  • Clinical outcome
  • Microsurgery
  • Spinal vascular malformation
  • Surgical results

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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