Brainstem arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are rare lesions that are difficult to diagnose and treat. They are often more aggressive in their behavior when compared with their supratentorial counterparts. The consequence of a brainstem hemorrhage is often devastating, and many patients are in poor neurological status at presentation. The authors examine the factors associated with angiographically confirmed cure and those affecting management outcomes for these complex lesions.
This was a retrospective analysis of data gathered from the prospectively maintained Stanford AVM database. Lesions were grouped based on their location in the brainstem (medulla, pons, or midbrain) and the quadrant they occupied. Angiographic cure was dichotomized as completely obliterated or not, and functional outcome was dichotomized as either independent or not independent at last follow-up.
Over a 23-year period, 39 lesions were treated. Of these, 3 were located in the medulla, 14 in the pons, and 22 in the midbrain. At presentation, 92% of the patients had hemorrhage, and only 43.6% were functionally independent. Surgery resulted in the best radiographic cure rates, with a morbidity rate of 12.5%. In all, 53% of patients either improved or remained stable after surgery. Absence of residual nidus and female sex correlated with better outcomes.
Brainstem AVMs usually present with hemorrhage. Surgery offers the best chance of cure, either in isolation or in combination with other modalities as appropriate.