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Jason Sheehan, Dale Ding and Robert M. Starke

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Chun-Po Yen, Dale Ding, Ching-Hsiao Cheng, Robert M. Starke, Mark Shaffrey and Jason Sheehan


A relatively benign natural course of unruptured cerebral arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) has recently been recognized, and the decision to treat incidentally found AVMs has been questioned. This study aims to evaluate the long-term imaging and clinical outcomes of patients with asymptomatic, incidentally discovered AVMs treated with Gamma Knife surgery (GKS).


Thirty-one patients, each with an incidentally diagnosed AVM, underwent GKS between 1989 and 2009. The nidus volumes ranged from 0.3 to 11.1 cm3 (median 3.2 cm3). A margin dose between 15 and 26 Gy (median 20 Gy) was used to treat the AVMs. Four patients underwent repeat GKS for still-patent AVM residuals after the initial GKS procedure. Clinical follow-up ranged from 24 to 196 months, with a mean of 78 months (median 51 months) after the initial GKS.


Following GKS, 19 patients (61.3%) had a total AVM obliteration on angiography. In 7 patients (22.6%), no flow voids were observed on MRI but angiographic confirmation was not available. In 5 patients (16.1%), the AVMs remained patent. A small nidus volume was significantly associated with increased AVM obliteration rate. Thirteen patients (41.9%) developed radiation-induced imaging changes: 11 were asymptomatic (35.5%), 1 had only headache (3.2%), and 1 developed seizure and neurological deficits (3.2%). Two patients each had 1 hemorrhage during the latency period (116.5 risk years), yielding an annual hemorrhage rate of 1.7% before AVM obliteration.


The decision to treat asymptomatic AVMs, and if so, which treatment approach to use, remain the subject of debate. GKS as a minimally invasive procedure appears to achieve a reasonable outcome with low procedure-related morbidity. In those patients with incidental AVMs, the benefits as well as the risks of radiosurgical intervention will only be fully defined with long-term follow-up.