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Seunggu J. Han, Dario J. Englot, Helen Kim and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECT

The surgical management of brainstem arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) might benefit from the definition of anatomical subtypes and refinements of resection techniques. Many brainstem AVMs sit extrinsically on pia mater rather than intrinsically in the parenchyma, allowing treatment by occluding feeding arteries circumferentially, interrupting draining veins after arteriovenous shunting is eliminated, and leaving the obliterated nidus behind. The authors report here the largest series of brainstem AVMs to define 6 subtypes, assess this “occlusion in situ” technique, and analyze the microsurgical results.

METHODS

Brainstem AVMs were categorized as 1 of 6 types: anterior midbrain, posterior midbrain, anterior pontine, lateral pontine, anterior medullary, and lateral medullary AVMs. Data from a prospectively maintained AVM registry were reviewed to evaluate multidisciplinary treatment results.

RESULTS

During a 15-year period, the authors treated 29 patients with brainstem AVMs located in the midbrain (1 anterior and 6 posterior), pons (6 anterior and 7 lateral), and medulla (1 anterior and 8 lateral). The nidus was pial in 26 cases and parenchymal in 3 cases. Twenty-three patients (79%) presented with hemorrhage. Brainstem AVMs were either resected (18 patients, 62%) or occluded in situ (11 patients, 38%). All lateral pontine AVMs were resected, and the occlusion in situ rate was highest with anterior pontine AVMs (83%). Angiography confirmed complete obliteration in 26 patients (89.6%). The surgical mortality rate was 6.9%, and the rate of permanent neurological deterioration was 13.8%. At follow-up (mean 1.3 years), good outcomes (modified Rankin Scale [mRS] score ≤ 2) were observed in 18 patients (66.7%) and poor outcomes (mRS score of 3–5) were observed in 9 patients (33.3%). The mRS scores in 21 patients (77.8%) were unchanged or improved. The best outcomes were observed with lateral pontine (100%) and lateral medullary (75%) AVMs, and the rate of worsening/death was greatest with posterior midbrain and anterior pontine AVMs (50% each).

CONCLUSIONS

Brainstem AVMs can be differentiated by their location in the brainstem (midbrain, pons, or medulla) and the surface on which they are based (anterior, posterior, or lateral). Anatomical subtypes can help the neurosurgeon determine how to advise patients, with lateral subtypes being a favorable surgical indication along with extrinsic pial location and hemorrhagic presentation. Most AVMs are dissected with the intention to resect them, and occlusion in situ is reserved for those AVMs that do not separate cleanly from the brainstem, that penetrate into the parenchyma, or are more anterior in location, where it is difficult to visualize and preserve perforating arteries (anterior pontine and lateral medullary AVMs). Although surgical morbidity is considerable, surgery results in a better obliteration rate than nonoperative management and is indicated in highly selected patients with high rerupture risks.

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Jan-Karl Burkhardt, George F. Lasker, Ethan A. Winkler, Helen Kim and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECTIVE

Few outcomes studies have been published on microsurgical resection of arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in elderly patients, and most are limited by a small sample size and the heterogeneous application of treatment modalities. This study aimed to determine whether functional outcomes at last follow-up (LFU) in patients 60 years or older differed when stratified by age.

METHODS

Patients 60 years or older (n = 104) who had undergone microsurgical AVM resection (total, n = 72; 60–65 years, n = 35; and > 65 years, n = 37) or observation (n = 32) were identified from a prospective database. Age, sex, Spetzler-Martin (SM) grade, supplemented SM grade, clinical presentation, AVM location, AVM-associated aneurysms, and functional outcome measured using the modified Rankin Scale (mRS score 0–2 [favorable] vs mRS score > 2 [unfavorable]) at LFU were analyzed.

RESULTS

AVM patients undergoing microsurgical resection were younger, had lower AVM grades, and were more likely to present with rupture. Overall outcome in the surgical group was favorable in 71% of the patients and was statistically significantly better in patients 60–65 years old (p = 0.039). In patients older than 65 years, outcome was dependent on SM grade and level of preexisting functional dependence. Patients with supplemented SM grades of greater than 6 points had favorable outcomes that were age dependent (p = 0.029). This difference was not observed in patients with lower supplemented SM grades or in those with low or high preoperative SM grades (SM grade ≤ 2 and grade ≥ 4, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS

This study demonstrates that favorable outcomes can be achieved with microsurgical resection of AVMs in elderly patients, with careful patient selection. Outcomes in more elderly patients (> 65 years of age) are more dependent on preoperative SM and supplemented SM grading than those in younger cohorts.

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Justin R. Mascitelli, Seungwon Yoon, Tyler S. Cole, Helen Kim and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECTIVE

Although numerous arteriovenous malformation (AVM) grading scales consider eloquence in risk assessment, none differentiate the types of eloquence. The purpose of this study was to determine if eloquence subtype affects clinical outcome.

METHODS

This is a retrospective review of a prospectively collected clinical database of brain AVMs treated with microsurgery in the period from 1997 to 2017. The only inclusion criterion for this study was the presence of eloquence as defined by the Spetzler-Martin grading scale. Eloquence was preoperatively categorized by radiologists. Poor outcome was defined as a modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score 3–6, and worsening clinical status was defined as an increase in the mRS score at follow-up. Logistic regression analyses were performed.

RESULTS

Two hundred forty-one patients (49.4% female; average age 33.9 years) with eloquent brain AVMs were included in this review. Of the AVMs (average size 2.7 cm), 54.4% presented with hemorrhage, 46.2% had deep venous drainage, and 17.0% were diffuse. The most common eloquence type was sensorimotor (46.1%), followed by visual (27.0%) and language (22.0%). Treatments included microsurgery alone (32.8%), microsurgery plus embolization (51.9%), microsurgery plus radiosurgery (7.9%), and all three modalities (7.5%). Motor mapping was used in 9% of sensorimotor AVM cases, and awake speech mapping was used in 13.2% of AVMs with language eloquence. Complications occurred in 24 patients (10%). At the last follow-up (average 24 months), 71.4% of the patients were unchanged or improved and 16.6% had a poor outcome. There was no statistically significant difference in the baseline patient and AVM characteristics among the different subtypes of eloquence. In a multivariate analysis, in comparison to visual eloquence, both sensorimotor (OR 7.4, p = 0.004) and language (OR 6.5, p = 0.015) eloquence were associated with poor outcomes. Additionally, older age (OR 1.31, p = 0.016) and larger AVM size (OR 1.37, p = 0.034) were associated with poor outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS

Unlike visual eloquence, sensorimotor and language eloquence were associated with worse clinical outcomes after the resection of eloquent AVMs. This nuance in AVM eloquence demands consideration before deciding on microsurgical intervention, especially when numerical grading systems produce a score near the borderline between operative and nonoperative management.

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Matthew B. Potts, Darryl Lau, Adib A. Abla, Helen Kim, William L. Young and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECT

Resection is an appealing therapy for brain arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) because of its high cure rate, low complication rate, and immediacy, and has become the first-line therapy for many AVMs. To clarify safety, efficacy, and outcomes associated with AVM resection in the aftermath of A Randomized Trial of Unruptured Brain AVMs (ARUBA), the authors reviewed their experience with low-grade AVMs—the most favorable AVMs for surgery and the ones most likely to have been selected for treatment outside of ARUBA's randomization process.

METHODS

A prospective AVM registry was searched to identify patients with Spetzler-Martin Grade I and II AVMs treated using resection during a 16-year period.

RESULTS

Of the 232 surgical patients included, 120 (52%) presented with hemorrhage, 33% had Spetzler-Martin Grade I, and 67% had Grade II AVMs. Overall, 99 patients (43%) underwent preoperative embolization, with unruptured AVMs embolized more often than ruptured AVMs. AVM resection was accomplished in all patients and confirmed angiographically in 218 patients (94%). There were no deaths among patients with unruptured AVMs. Good outcomes (modified Rankin Scale [mRS] score 0–1) were found in 78% of patients, with 97% improved or unchanged from their preoperative mRS scores. Patients with unruptured AVMs had better functional outcomes (91% good outcome vs 65% in the ruptured group, p = 0.0008), while relative outcomes were equivalent (98% improved/unchanged in patients with ruptured AVMs vs 96% in patients with unruptured AVMs).

CONCLUSIONS

Surgery should be regarded as the “gold standard” therapy for the majority of low-grade AVMs, utilizing conservative embolization as a preoperative adjunct. High surgical cure rates and excellent functional outcomes in patients with both ruptured and unruptured AVMs support a dominant surgical posture for low-grade AVMS, with radiosurgery reserved for risky AVMs in deep, inaccessible, and highly eloquent locations. Despite the technological advances in endovascular and radiosurgical therapy, surgery still offers the best cure rate, lowest risk profile, and greatest protection against hemorrhage for low-grade AVMs. ARUBA results are influenced by a low randomization rate, bias toward nonsurgical therapies, a shortage of surgical expertise, a lower rate of complete AVM obliteration, a higher rate of delayed hemorrhage, and short study duration. Another randomized trial is needed to reestablish the role of surgery in unruptured AVM management.

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Sara C. LaHue, Helen Kim, Ludmila Pawlikowska, Jeffrey Nelson, Daniel L. Cooke, Steven W. Hetts and Vineeta Singh

OBJECTIVE

The pathogenesis of dural arteriovenous fistulas (DAVFs) remains poorly defined. Prior studies on thrombophilia as a risk factor for DAVF development are limited by small sample sizes and poor generalizability.

METHODS

In this longitudinal observational study, all patients with intracranial DAVFs evaluated at the University of California, San Francisco from December 1994 through April 2014 were identified. After obtaining patient consent, 3 thrombophilic mutations, factor V Leiden (rs6025), MTHFR (rs1801133), and prothrombin G20210A, were genotyped. The authors evaluated the association of thrombophilia status (presence of any thrombophilic mutation) and clinical and angiographic characteristics using either a 2-sample t-test or Fisher’s exact test.

RESULTS

A total of 116 patients with diagnosed intracranial DAVFs were included in the study. Twenty-five (22%) patients met criteria for thrombophilia. Focal neurological deficits tended to occur more frequently in the thrombophilia group (78% vs 57%, p = 0.09). Angiographic characteristics of DAVFs, including high-risk venous flow pattern, multiplicity of DAVF, and the presence of venous sinus thrombosis, did not differ significantly between the 2 groups but tended to be more common in the thrombophilic than in the nonthrombophilic group.

CONCLUSIONS

This study is one of the largest of thrombophilia and DAVF to date. The frequency of mutations associated with thrombophilia in this study was higher than that in the general population.

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W. Caleb Rutledge, Adib A. Abla, Jeffrey Nelson, Van V. Halbach, Helen Kim and Michael T. Lawton

Object

Management of unruptured arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) is controversial. In the first randomized trial of unruptured AVMs (A Randomized Trial of Unruptured Brain Arteriovenous Malformations [ARUBA]), medically managed patients had a significantly lower risk of death or stroke and had better outcomes. The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) was one of the participating ARUBA sites. While 473 patients were screened for eligibility, only 4 patients were enrolled in ARUBA. The purpose of this study is to report the treatment and outcomes of all ARUBA-eligible patients at UCSF.

Methods

The authors compared the treatment and outcomes of ARUBA-eligible patients using prospectively collected data from the UCSF brain AVM registry. Similar to ARUBA, they compared the rate of stroke or death in observed and treated patients and used the modified Rankin Scale to grade outcomes.

Results

Of 74 patients, 61 received an intervention and 13 were observed. Most treated patients had resection with or without preoperative embolization (43 [70.5%] of 61 patients). One of the 13 observed patients died after AVM hemorrhage. Nine of the 61 treated patients had a stroke or died. There was no significant difference in the rate of stroke or death (HR 1.34, 95% CI 0.12–14.53, p = 0.81) or clinical impairment (Fisher’s exact test, p > 0.99) between observed and treated patients.

Conclusions

The risk of stroke or death and degree of clinical impairment among treated patients was lower than reported in ARUBA. The authors found no significant difference in outcomes between observed and treated ARUBA-eligible patients at UCSF. Results in ARUBA-eligible patients managed outside that trial led to an entirely different conclusion about AVM intervention, due to the primary role of surgery, judicious surgical selection with established outcome predictors, and technical expertise developed at high-volume AVM centers.

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Adib A. Abla, Jeffrey Nelson, W. Caleb Rutledge, William L. Young, Helen Kim and Michael T. Lawton

Object

Patients with posterior fossa arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are more likely to present with hemorrhage than those with supratentorial AVMs. Observed patients subject to the AVM natural history should be informed of the individualized effects of AVM characteristics on the clinical course following a new, first-time hemorrhage. The authors hypothesize that the debilitating effects of first-time bleeding from an AVM in a previously intact patient with an unruptured AVM are more pronounced when AVMs are located in the posterior fossa.

Methods

The University of California, San Francisco prospective registry of brain AVMs was searched for patients with a ruptured AVM who had a pre-hemorrhage modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score of 0 and a post-hemorrhage mRS score obtained within 2 days of the hemorrhagic event. A total of 154 patients met the inclusion criteria for this study. Immediate post-hemorrhage presentation mRS scores were dichotomized into nonsevere outcome (mRS ≤ 3) and severe outcome (mRS > 3). There were 77 patients in each group. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses using severe outcome as the binary response were run. The authors also performed a logistic regression analysis to measure the effects of hematoma volume and AVM location on severe outcome.

Results

Posterior fossa location was a significant predictor of severe outcome (OR 2.60, 95% CI 1.20–5.67, p = 0.016) and the results were strengthened in a multivariate model (OR 4.96, 95% CI 1.73–14.17, p = 0.003). Eloquent location (OR 3.47, 95% CI 1.37–8.80, p = 0.009) and associated arterial aneurysms (OR 2.58, 95% CI 1.09, 6.10; p = 0.031) were also significant predictors of poor outcome. Hematoma volume for patients with a posterior fossa AVM was 10.1 ± 10.1 cm3 compared with 25.6 ±28.0 cm3 in supratentorial locations (p = 0.003). A logistic analysis (based on imputed hemorrhage volume values) found that posterior fossa location was a significant predictor of severe outcome (OR 8.03, 95% CI 1.20–53.77, p = 0.033) and logarithmic hematoma volume showed a positive, but not statistically significant, association in the model (p = 0.079).

Conclusions

Patients with posterior fossa AVMs are more likely to have severe outcomes than those with supratentorial AVMs based on this natural history study. Age, sex, and ethnicity were not associated with an increased risk of severe outcome after AVM rupture, but posterior fossa location, associated aneurysms, and eloquent location were associated with poor post-hemorrhage mRS scores. Posterior fossa hematomas are poorly tolerated, with severe outcomes observed even with smaller hematoma volumes. These findings support an aggressive surgical posture with respect to posterior fossa AVMs, both before and after rupture.

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Editorial

Deep brain stimulation and depression

Kim J. Burchiel

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Sara C. LaHue, Helen Kim, Ludmila Pawlikowska, Jeffrey Nelson, Daniel L. Cooke, Steven W. Hetts and Vineeta Singh

OBJECTIVE

The pathogenesis of dural arteriovenous fistulas (DAVFs) remains poorly defined. Prior studies on thrombophilia as a risk factor for DAVF development are limited by small sample sizes and poor generalizability.

METHODS

In this longitudinal observational study, all patients with intracranial DAVFs evaluated at the University of California, San Francisco from December 1994 through April 2014 were identified. After obtaining patient consent, 3 thrombophilic mutations, factor V Leiden (rs6025), MTHFR (rs1801133), and prothrombin G20210A, were genotyped. The authors evaluated the association of thrombophilia status (presence of any thrombophilic mutation) and clinical and angiographic characteristics using either a 2-sample t-test or Fisher’s exact test.

RESULTS

A total of 116 patients with diagnosed intracranial DAVFs were included in the study. Twenty-five (22%) patients met criteria for thrombophilia. Focal neurological deficits tended to occur more frequently in the thrombophilia group (78% vs 57%, p = 0.09). Angiographic characteristics of DAVFs, including high-risk venous flow pattern, multiplicity of DAVF, and the presence of venous sinus thrombosis, did not differ significantly between the 2 groups but tended to be more common in the thrombophilic than in the nonthrombophilic group.

CONCLUSIONS

This study is one of the largest of thrombophilia and DAVF to date. The frequency of mutations associated with thrombophilia in this study was higher than that in the general population.

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Adib A. Abla, William Caleb Rutledge, Zachary A. Seymour, Diana Guo, Helen Kim, Nalin Gupta, Penny K. Sneed, Igor J. Barani, David Larson, Michael W. McDermott and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECT

The surgical treatment of many large arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) is associated with substantial risks, and many are considered inoperable. Furthermore, AVMs larger than 3 cm in diameter are not usually treated with conventional single-session radiosurgery encompassing the entire AVM volume. Volume-staged stereotactic radiosurgery (VS-SRS) is an option for large AVMs, but it has mixed results. The authors report on a series of patients with high-grade AVMs who underwent multiple VS-SRS sessions with resultant downgrading of the AVMs, followed by resection.

METHODS

A cohort of patients was retrieved from a single-institution AVM patient registry consisting of prospectively collected data. VS-SRS was performed as a planned intentional treatment. Surgery was considered as salvage therapy in select patients.

RESULTS

Sixteen AVMs underwent VS-SRS followed by surgery. Four AVMs presented with rupture. The mean patient age was 25.3 years (range 13–54 years). The average initial Spetzler-Martin grade before any treatment was 4, while the average supplemented Spetzler-Martin grade (Spetzler-Martin plus Lawton-Young) was 7.1. The average AVM size in maximum dimension was 5.9 cm (range 3.3–10 cm). All AVMs were supratentorial in location and all except one were in eloquent areas of the brain, with 7 involving primary motor cortex. The mean number of VS-SRS sessions was 2.7 (range 2–5 sessions). The mean interval between first VS-SRS session and resection was 5.7 years. There were 4 hemorrhages that occurred after VS-SRS. The average Spetzler-Martin grade was reduced to 2.5 (downgrade, −1.5) and the average supplemented Spetzler-Martin grade was reduced to 5.6 (downgrade, −1.5). The maximum AVM size was reduced to an average of 3.0 cm (downsize = −2.9 cm). The mean modified Rankin Scale (mRS) scores were 1.2, 2.3, and 2.2 before VS-SRS, before surgery, and at last follow-up, respectively (mean follow-up, 6.9 years). Fifteen AVMs were cured after surgery. Ten patients had good outcomes at last follow-up (7 with mRS Score 0 or 1, and 3 with mRS Score 2). There were 2 deaths (both mRS Score 1 before treatment) and 4 patients with mRS Score 3 outcome (from mRS Scores 0, 1, and 2 [n = 2]).

CONCLUSIONS

Volume-staged SRS can downgrade AVMs, transforming high-grade AVMs (initially considered inoperable) into operable AVMs with acceptable surgical risks. This treatment paradigm offers an alternative to conservative observation for young patients with unruptured AVMs and long life expectancy, where the risk of hemorrhage is substantial. Difficult AVMs were cured in 15 patients. Surgical morbidity associated with downgraded AVMs is reduced to that of postradiosurgical/preoperative supplemented Spetzler-Martin grades, not their initial AVM grades.