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  • Author or Editor: Alim P. Mitha x
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Adib A. Abla, Jay D. Turner, Alim P. Mitha, Gregory Lekovic and Robert F. Spetzler

Brainstem cavernous malformations (CMs) are low-flow vascular lesions in eloquent locations. Their presentation is often marked with symptomatic hemorrhages that appear to occur more frequently than hemorrhage from supratentorial cavernomas. Brainstem CMs can be removed using 1 of the 5 standard skull-base approaches: retrosigmoid, suboccipital (with or without telovelar approach), supracerebellar infratentorial, orbitozygomatic, and far lateral.

Patients being referred to a tertiary institution often have lesions that are aggressive with respect to bleeding rates. Nonetheless, the indications for surgery, in the authors' opinion, are the same for all lesions: those that are symptomatic, those that cause mass effect, or those that abut a pial surface. Patients often have relapsing and remitting courses of symptoms, with each hemorrhage causing a progressive and stepwise decline. Many patients experience new postoperative deficits, most of which are transient and resolve fully. Despite the risks associated with operating in this highly eloquent tissue, most patients have had favorable outcomes in the authors' experience. Surgical treatment of brainstem CMs protects patients from the potentially devastating effects of rehemorrhage, and the authors believe that the benefits of intervention outweigh the risks in patients with the appropriate indications.

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Alim P. Mitha, Jay D. Turner, Adib A. Abla, A. Giancarlo Vishteh and Robert F. Spetzler

Object

The management of intramedullary spinal cord cavernous malformations (CMs) is controversial. At Barrow Neurological Institute, the authors selectively offer surgical treatment for symptomatic spinal cord CMs. The purpose of this paper is to review the clinical outcomes in patients after resection of these lesions based on a single-center experience over a 25-year period.

Methods

The records of 80 patients who underwent resection of pathologically confirmed spinal cord CMs from January 1985 to May 2010 were analyzed retrospectively. Preoperative clinical status and imaging findings were evaluated as well as immediate and long-term postoperative outcomes.

Results

Compared with their preoperative Frankel grade, 11% of patients were worse, 83% were the same, and 6% improved immediately after surgery. At a mean follow-up interval of 5 years, 10% of patients were worse, 68% were the same, and 23% were improved compared with their preoperative status. Five percent of patients underwent reoperation for resection of a symptomatic residual or recurrent lesion. Immediate complications were encountered in 6% of patients, including CSF leakage and deep venous thrombosis. Long-term complications were encountered in 14% of patients and included kyphotic deformity, stenosis, and spinal cord tethering. A significant correlation was found between long-term outcome and anteroposterior length of the lesion (p = 0.01).

Conclusions

The resection of intramedullary spinal cord CMs can be achieved with good long-term outcomes and an acceptable risk of immediate or delayed complications.