Ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer embolization is increasingly used preoperatively in the resection of brain arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). However, the case for embolization improving the outcome of resection has not been evaluated. In this paper the authors set out to compare outcomes after surgery for brain AVMs in 2 consecutive periods of practice. In the first period, selective embolization was used without the use of ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer. In the second period, selective embolization with ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer was performed.
A consecutive case series (prospectively collected data) was retrospectively analyzed. Adverse outcomes were considered to be an outcome modified Rankin Scale score greater than 2 due to embolization or surgery.
A total of 538 surgical cases were included. The percentages of adverse outcomes were as follows: 0.34% for Spetzler-Martin AVMs less than Grade III (1 of 297 cases); 5.23% (95% CI 2.64%–9.78%) for Grade III AVMs (9 of 172 cases); and 17% (95% CI 10%–28%) for AVMs greater than Grade III (12 of 69 cases). There was no improvement in outcomes from the first period to the second period. The adverse outcome for Grade III brain AVMs in the first period was 5.2% (7 of 135 cases) and in the second period (after ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer was introduced) it was 5.4% (2 of 37 cases). For AVMs greater than Grade III, the adverse outcome was 12% (6 of 49 cases) in the first period and 30% (6 of 20 cases) in the second period.
Outcomes for brain AVM surgery were not improved by ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer embolization. Preoperative embolization of high-grade AVMs with an ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer did not prevent those hemorrhagic complications which embolization is hypothesized to prevent based on theoretical speculations but not demonstrated in practice.