Background: An understanding of the present standing of surgery, surgical results and the role in altering the future morbidity and mortality of untreated brain arteriovenous malformations (bAVMs) is appropriate considering the myriad alternative management pathways (including radiosurgery, embolization or some combination of treatments), varying risks and selection biases that have contributed to confusion regarding management. The purpose of this review is to clarify the link between the incidence of adverse outcomes that are reported from a management pathway of either surgery or no intervention with the projected risks of surgery or no intervention.
Methods: A critical review of the literature was performed on the outcomes of surgery and non-intervention for bAVM. An analysis of the biases and how these may have influenced the outcomes was included to attempt to identify reasonable estimates of risks.
Results: In the absence of treatment, the cumulative risk of future hemorrhage is approximately 16% and 29% at 10 and 20 years after diagnosis of bAVM without hemorrhage and 35% and 45% at 10 and 20 years when presenting with hemorrhage (annualized, this risk would be approximately 1.8% for unruptured bAVMs and 4.7% for 8 years for bAVMs presenting with hemorrhage followed by the unruptured bAVM rate). The cumulative outcome of these hemorrhages depends upon whether the patient remains untreated and is allowed to have a further hemorrhage or is treated at this time. Overall, approximately 42% will develop a new permanent neurological deficit or death from a hemorrhagic event. The presence of an associated proximal intracranial aneurysm (APIA) and restriction of venous outflow may increase the risk for subsequent hemorrhage. Other risks for increased risk of hemorrhage (age, pregnancy, female) were examined, and their purported association with hemorrhage is difficult to support. Both the Spetzler-Martin grading system (and its compaction into the Spetzler-Ponce tiers) and Lawton-Young supplementary grading system are excellent in predicting the risk of surgery. The 8-year risk of unfavorable outcome from surgery (complication leading to a permanent new neurological deficit with a modified Rankin Scale score of greater than one, residual bAVM or recurrence) is dependent on bAVM size, the presence of deep venous drainage (DVD) and location in critical brain (eloquent location). For patients with bAVMs who have neither a DVD nor eloquent location, the 8-year risk for an unfavorable outcome increases with size (increasing from 1 cm to 6 cm) from 1% to 9%. For patients with bAVM who have either a DVD or eloquent location (but not both), the 8-year risk for an unfavorable outcome increases with the size (increasing from 1 cm to 6 cm) from 4% to 35%. For patients with bAVM who have both a DVD and eloquent location, the 8-year risk for unfavorable outcome increases with size (increasing from 1 cm to 3 cm) from 12% to 38%.
Conclusion: Patients with a Spetzler-Ponce A bAVM expecting a good quality of life for the next 8 years are likely to do better with surgery in expert centers than remaining untreated. Ongoing research is urgently required on the outcome of management pathways for bAVM.
- arteriovenous malformation