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Angiography After Aneurysm Surgery

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Unruptured intracranial aneurysms: natural history and management decisions

Leodante B. da Costa, Thorsteinn Gunnarsson, and M. Christopher Wallace

Aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) carries a grim prognosis, with high mortality and morbidity rates. The mortality rate in the first 30 days postrupture is estimated to be in the range of 40 to 50%, and almost half of the survivors will be left with a neurological deficit. Unlike patients with aneurysmal SAH, those with unruptured intracranial aneurysms usually experience no neurological deficit, and their treatment is prophylactic, aiming to reduce the risk of future bleeding and its consequences. The risk of rupture therefore assumes special importance when making decisions regarding which patient or aneurysm to treat.

In previous reports the risk of bleeding for unruptured aneurysms has been stated as approximately 2% per year. The retrospective part of the International Study of Unruptured Intracranial Aneurysms (ISUIA) reported very low annual bleeding rates (0.05–1%) and high surgical morbidity and mortality rates (8–18%), prompting discussion in which the benefits of prophylactic treatment in the majority of these lesions were questioned. Prospective data from the second part of the ISUIA recently included rupture rates ranging from 0 to 10% per year. The aim of this paper was to review the evidence that is currently available for neurosurgeons to use when making decisions regarding patients who would benefit from treatment of an unruptured intracranial aneurysm.

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Spinal epidural arteriovenous fistula with intramedullary reflux

Case report

Farhad Pirouzmand, M. Christopher Wallace, and Robert Willinsky

✓ A spinal epidural arteriovenous fistula with secondary reflux into the perimedullary veins is a rare entity. The authors present such a case with a discussion of its pathophysiology and treatment. The mechanism for formation of a spinal dural arteriovenous fistula is outlined based on the anatomical substrates in this region.

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Benign dural arteriovenous fistulas

Roberto C. Heros

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Shunt-dependent hydrocephalus after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage: incidence, predictors, and revision rates

Clinical article

Cian J. O'Kelly, Abhaya V. Kulkarni, Peter C. Austin, David Urbach, and M. Christopher Wallace


Chronic shunt-dependent hydrocephalus is a recognized complication of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. While its incidence and risk factors have been well described, the long-term performance of shunts in this setting has not been not widely reported.


Using administrative databases, the authors derived a retrospective cohort of patients undergoing treatment of a ruptured aneurysm in Ontario, Canada, between 1995 and 2005. The authors determined the incidence of shunt-dependent hydrocephalus and analyzed putative risk factors. Mortality rates and indicators of morbidity were recorded. Patients were followed up for the occurrence of shunt failure over time.


Of 3120 patients in the cohort, 585 (18.75%) developed shunt-dependent hydrocephalus. On multivariate analysis, age, acute hydrocephalus, ventilation on admission, aneurysms in the posterior circulation and giant aneurysms were all significant predictors of shunt-dependent hydrocephalus. The mortality rate was not increased in patients with chronic hydrocephalus (hazard ratio 1.04, p = 0.63); however, indicators of morbidity were increased in these patients. Of the 585 patients with shunt-dependent hydrocephalus, only 173 (29.6%) underwent a subsequent revision procedure. Ninety-eight percent of these revisions were completed within 6 months. Subsequent revisions occurred more frequently. On multivariate analysis, significant predictors of shunt revision included aneurysm location in the posterior circulation and endovascular treatment of the initial ruptured aneurysm.


Shunt-dependent hydrocephalus affects a significant proportion of subarachnoid hemorrhage survivors, contributing to additional morbidity among these patients. Shunt failures occur less frequently in patients who underwent treatment for a ruptured aneurysm than with other forms of hydrocephalus. Most failures occur within 6 months, suggesting that shunt dependency may be transient in the majority of patients.

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The impact of therapeutic modality on outcomes following repair of ruptured intracranial aneurysms: an administrative data analysis

Clinical article

Cian J. O'Kelly, Abhaya V. Kulkarni, Peter C. Austin, M. Christopher Wallace, and David Urbach


Enrolling a selected sample of ruptured intracranial aneurysms, the International Subarachnoid Aneurysm Trial (ISAT) found endovascular coiling to be superior to microsurgical clipping. The performance of coiling in a more general population of ruptured aneurysms has not been adequately studied.


Using provincial administrative data from Ontario, the authors conducted a retrospective cohort study of adult patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) who underwent aneurysm repair. The exposure was defined as endovascular versus surgical aneurysm repair. The prespecified primary outcome was time to death or readmission for SAH. Data from the entire cohort were analyzed using a multivariable adjusted Cox proportional hazards model. Propensity scores were used to compare a matched subgroup of patients with aneurysms who had similar baseline characteristics. The potential impact of unmeasured confounding was assessed using sensitivity analysis.


Between 1995 and 2004, 2342 aneurysms were clipped and 778 were coiled in Ontario. The proportion of aneurysms treated by coiling increased steadily over time. In the adjusted analysis of the entire cohort, endovascular coiling was associated with a significantly increased hazard of death or SAH readmission (hazard ratio 1.25 [95% CI 1.00–1.55], p = 0.04). Similar results were obtained from the propensity score matched analysis (hazard ratio 1.25 [95% CI 1.04–1.50], p = 0.02). Measures of procedural morbidity and mortality were not significantly different between groups.


The results of the current analysis call into question the generalizability of the ISAT to all ruptured aneurysms. Given the limitations inherent in this form of analysis, further clinical studies—rigorously assessing the performance of endovascular therapy in patients with non-ISAT-like aneurysms—are indicated.

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Safety of intracranial aneurysm surgery performed in a postgraduate training program: implications for training

Sarah I. Woodrow, Mark Bernstein, and M. Christopher Wallace

Object. Patient care and educational experience have long formed a dichotomy in modern surgical training. In neurosurgery, achieving a delicate balance between these two factors has been challenged by recent trends in the field including increased subspecialization, emerging technologies, and decreased resident work hours. In this study the authors evaluated the experience profiles of neurosurgical trainees at a large Canadian academic center and the safety of their practice on patient care.

Methods. Two hundred ninety-three patients who underwent surgery for intracranial aneurysm clipping between 1993 and 1996 were selected. Prospective data were available in 167 cases, allowing the operating surgeon to be identified. Postoperative data and follow-up data were gathered retrospectively to measure patient outcomes. In 167 cases, a total of 183 aneurysms were clipped, the majority (91%) by neurosurgical trainees. Trainees performed dissections on aneurysms that were predominantly small (<1.5 cm in diameter; 77% of patients) and ruptured (64% of patients). Overall mortality rates for the patients treated by the trainee group were 4% (two of 52 patients) and 9% (nine of 100 patients) for unruptured and ruptured aneurysm cases, respectively. Patient outcomes were comparable to those reported in historical data. Staff members appeared to be primary surgeons in a select subset of cases.

Conclusions. Neurosurgical trainees at this institution are exposed to a broad spectrum of intracranial aneurysms, although some case selection does occur. With careful supervision, intracranial aneurysm surgery can be safely delegated to trainees without compromising patient outcomes. Current trends in practice patterns in neurosurgery mandate ongoing monitoring of residents' operative experience while ensuring continued excellence in patient care.

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Multiplicity of dural arteriovenous fistulas

J. Marc C. Van Dijk, Karel G. TerBrugge, Robert A. Willinsky, and M. Christopher Wallace

Object. Dural arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) are a well-known pathoanatomical and clinical entity. Excluding bilateral involvement of the cavernous sinus, multiple dural AVFs are rare, with isolated reports in the literature. The additional risk associated with multiplicity is unknown, although it has been claimed that there is a greater risk of hemorrhage at presentation. In a group of 284 patients with dural AVFs consecutively treated at a single center, the occurrence of multiplicity is investigated and its risk factors for hemorrhage are identified.

Methods. Among the 284 patients with both cranial and spinal dural AVFs, 20 patients with multiple fistulas were found. Nineteen (8.1%) of 235 patients with cranial AVFs had multiple cranial fistulas, and one (2%) of 49 patients with spinal AVFs harbored two spinal fistulas. Twelve patients were found to have a lesion at two separate sites, seven patients had them at three locations, and one patient had four fistulas, each at a different site.

In the subgroup with multiple AVFs the percentage of hemorrhage at presentation was three times higher than in the entire group (p = 0.01). Cortical venous drainage in cranial fistulas was present in 84% of patients with multiple lesions compared with 46% of patients with solitary lesions (p < 0.005).

Conclusions. Multiple dural AVFs are not rare. In this group of 284 patients it was found in 8.1% of all patients with cranial dural AVFs. Multiplicity was associated with a higher percentage of cortical venous drainage, a pattern of drainage reportedly yielding a higher risk for hemorrhage.

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Role of angiography following aneurysm surgery

R. Loch Macdonald, M. Christopher Wallace, and John R. W. Kestle

✓ The postoperative angiograms in 66 patients who underwent craniotomy for clipping of 78 cerebral aneurysms were reviewed. Indications for urgent postoperative angiography included neurological deficit or repeat subarachnoid hemorrhage. Routine postoperative angiograms were carried out in the remaining patients. Postoperative angiograms were reviewed to determine the incidence of unexpected findings such as unclipped aneurysms, residual aneurysms, and unforeseen major vessel occlusions. Logistic regression analysis was used to test if the following were factors that predicted an unexpected finding on postoperative angiography: aneurysm site or size; the intraoperative impression that residual aneurysm was left or a major vessel was occluded; intraoperative aneurysm rupture; opening or needle aspiration of the aneurysm after clipping; or development of a new neurological deficit after surgery. Kappa values were calculated to assess the agreement between some of these clinical factors and unexpected angiographic findings.

Unexpected residual aneurysms were seen in three (4%) of the 78 occlusions. In addition, three aneurysms were completely unclipped (4%); these three patients were returned to the operating room and had their aneurysms successfully obliterated. There were nine unexpected major vessel occlusions (12%); six of these resulted in disabling stroke and two patients died. Of six major arteries considered to be occluded intraoperatively and shown to be occluded by postoperative angiography, two were associated with cerebral infarction. Logistic regression analysis showed that a new postoperative neurological deficit predicted an unforeseen vessel occlusion on postoperative angiography. Factors could not be identified that predicted unexpected residual aneurysm or unclipped aneurysm.

The inability to predict accurately the presence of residual or unclipped aneurysm suggests that all patients should undergo postoperative angiography. Since a new postoperative neurological deficit is one factor predicting unexpected arterial occlusion, intraoperative angiography may be necessary to help reduce the incidence of stroke after aneurysm surgery. With study of more patients or of factors not examined in this series, it may be possible to select cases more accurately for intraoperative or postoperative angiography.

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Selective disconnection of cortical venous reflux as treatment for cranial dural arteriovenous fistulas

J. Marc C. van Dijk, Karel G. TerBrugge, Robert A. Willinsky, and M. Christopher Wallace

Object. A single-institution series of 119 consecutive patients with a dural arteriovenous fistula (DAVF) and cortical venous reflux was reviewed to assess the overall clinical outcome of multidisciplinary management after long-term follow up. The selective disconnection of the cortical venous reflux compared with the obliteration of the entire DAVF was evaluated.

Methods. Dural arteriovenous fistulas in patients in this series were diagnosed between 1984 and 2001, and treatment was instituted in 102 of them. The outcome of adequately treated patients was compared with that of a control group consisting of those with persistent cortical venous reflux and with data found in the literature. In cases of combined dural sinus drainage and cortical venous reflux, a novel treatment concept of selective disconnection of the cortical venous reflux that left the sinus drainage intact, and thus converted the aggressive DAVF into a benign lesion, was evaluated.

Endovascular treatment, which was instituted initially in 78 patients, resulted in an obliteration or selective disconnection in 26 (25.5%) of 102 cases. In 70 cases (68.6%) the DAVFs were surgically obliterated or disconnected. In six cases (5.9%), patients were left with persistent cortical venous reflux. No lasting complications were noted in this series. Follow-up angiography confirmed a durable result in 94 (97.9%) of 96 adequately treated cases, at a mean follow up of 27.6 months (range 1.4–138.3 months).

Selective disconnection was performed in 23 DAVFs with combined sinus drainage and cortical venous reflux. These patients' long-term outcomes were equal to those with obliterated DAVFs, and the complication rate was lower.

Conclusions. Considering the ominous course of DAVFs with patent cortical venous reflux, multidisciplinary treatment of these lesions is highly effective and the complication rate is low. Selective disconnection provides a valid treatment option of DAVFs with combined dural sinus drainage and cortical venous reflux, as has been shown in cranial DAVFs with direct cortical venous reflux.