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A deceptive mass on neonatal ultrasound and a fetal brain MRI-confirmed complex dural arteriovenous fistula postnatally: illustrative case

Elliot T. Varney, Charlotte S. Taylor, Allen G. Crosthwait, Kristin Weaver, and Todd Nichols

BACKGROUND

Dural arteriovenous fistulas (dAVFs) are direct, aberrant connections between dural arteries and cerebral veins. In neonates, delayed diagnosis results in grim outcomes. Treatment involves endovascular management because of its success and tolerability. Here, the authors present a case of a complex dAVF initially recognized with an in utero neurosonogram and fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

OBSERVATIONS

A 21-week fetal ultrasound of a nonspecific brain mass was confirmed with fetal MRI as a 2.7-cm T1-hyperintense posterior fossa mass. Although a large flow void in the left middle cranial fossa was present, postnatal computed tomography angiography ultimately revealed a high-flow dAVF communicating with the left transverse sinus. In the early postnatal period, the patient developed hydrocephalus. After successful partial embolization, 6-week postangiogram brain MRI indicated disease progression with the development of a venous varix causing brainstem compression. Repeat embolization resulted in complete cessation of early venous drainage.

LESSONS

Neonatal dAVFs are exceedingly rare and result in futile outcomes; however, detection in utero is possible. Although definitive therapy must be performed postnatally, constant monitoring and early delivery can prevent complications. Attention to fetal ultrasound is essential, and knowledge of fetal MRI in the detection of these complex lesions can significantly improve outcomes.