Onyx embolization of intracranial arteriovenous malformations in pediatric patients

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The authors undertook this study to assess the safety and efficacy of Onyx embolization in the treatment of intracranial arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in pediatric patients.


All pediatric Onyx embolization of intracranial AVM cases performed consecutively at a single children's hospital over a 5-year period were collected and evaluated.


Twenty-five patients (mean age 10.5 years) underwent a total of 38 procedures. An aggregate of 56 pedicles were embolized (mean 1.47 per session). The Spetzler-Martin grade was determined in all cases. Onyx embolization resulted in complete obliteration of the AVM in 3 cases (12%) and partial obliteration in 22 cases (88%). A total of 23 patients underwent surgical treatment. The mean preoperative AVM devascularization in these cases was 72%. One patient was treated with radiosurgery following Onyx embolization. Overall, 10 complications occurred in a total of 38 procedures (26.3%). None of the complications resulted in permanent neurological morbidity. The rate of transient neurological complications was 10.5% (4 of 38 procedures) and the rate of transient nonneurological complications was 5.3% (2 of 38 procedures). The remaining 4 complications were clinically silent (rate of 10.5%). There were no procedure-related deaths in this study population. There was no significant difference in patients with and without complications in terms of demographic characteristics, AVM grade, or embolization features (p ≥ 0.2). Deep venous drainage was associated with higher complication rates (p = 0.03).


Onyx utilization is feasible for preoperative or primary embolization in the treatment of pediatric intracranial AVMs; however, the spectrum of complications encountered is broad, and attention must be paid to the technical nuances of and indications for its use to avoid many potential dangerous effects. Although the overall complication rates were higher than expected, all were either clinically silent or had only transient clinical effects. Thus, this experience suggests that Onyx embolization can be performed safely with a low rate of permanent morbidity in pediatric patients harboring these difficult lesions.

Abbreviations used in this paper:AVM = arteriovenous malformation; DAVF = dural arteriovenous fistula; DMSO = dimethyl sulfoxide; HIPAA = Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act; mRS = modified Rankin Scale; n-BCA = n-butyl cyanoacrylate; PACS = picture archiving and communication system; PICU = pediatric intensive care unit.

Article Information

Address correspondence to: Ali Shaibani, M.D., Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, 676 North St. Clair Street, Suite 800, Chicago, Illinois 60611. email: ashaibani@nch.org.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online February 8, 2013; DOI: 10.3171/2013.1.PEDS12286.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



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