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Arteriovenous malformation grading system

Robert F. Spetzler

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Bone flap fixation: a new technique

Technical note

Robert F. Spetzler

✓ A new fixation technique for bone flaps is described. This technique avoids the use of hardware external to the skull in hairless areas where it may prove unsightly in patients with a thin scalp. The insertion of pins into the middle table of the skull firmly fixes bone flaps at one edge, eliminating the need for external plates at that site.

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Percutaneous Technique for Insertion of Atrial Catheter

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Holographic interferometry applied to the study of the human skull

Robert F. Spetzler and Hartmut Spetzler

✓ A laboratory technique that allows strain measurements of the skull is described. Holographic interferometry allows the entire surface displacement of the skull to be mapped within 1/10 of the wavelength of light. Holographic interferometric pictures are presented following various stress applications to the skull. The method, besides being exquisitely sensitive, allows strain measurements simultaneously in any desired direction over the entire skull. No physical contact with the skull is required, and the experimental set-up is simple.

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Cervical-Peritoneal Shunt

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Microsurgical resection of cervical spinal arteriovenous malformation: the pial resection technique

Leonardo Rangel-Castilla and Robert F. Spetzler

We present the case of a 26-year-old female patient who had two episodes of sudden, left, upper and lower extremity paresthesias and weakness, which resolved completely after 5 months. After recovery, she presented for evaluation. Imaging demonstrated a C3-C6 intra- and extra-axial arteriovenous malformation (AVM) with spinal cord compression and edema. A spinal angiogram showed arterial feeders arising from both vertebral arteries and from the right ascending pharyngeal artery. The AVM had been partially embolized after her first bleeding episode. She underwent C3-C6 laminoplasty and microsurgical resection of the AVM. After locating the main arterial feeders and draining veins, the malformation was resected using the pial resection technique. A postoperative spinal angiogram demonstrated gross total resection. Video used with permission from Barrow Neurological Institute.

The video can be found here:

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Microsurgical management of a large ICA bifurcation aneurysm

Leonardo Rangel-Castilla and Robert F. Spetzler

A 70-year-old man with progressive visual disturbances, left superior quadrantanopsia, and right-sided papilledema underwent imaging that demonstrated a right internal carotid artery (ICA) terminus aneurysm with third-ventricle mass effect and ipsilateral optic nerve and chiasm compression. We performed a right modified orbitozygomatic craniotomy, with proximal control and dissection of the aneurysm and small perforator arteries. Temporary ICA and anterior cerebral artery (ACA) clips allowed placement of a large curved permanent clip, reconstructing the ICA bifurcation and maintaining adequate patency of the ACA and middle cerebral artery. Complete aneurysm obliteration was confirmed by intraoperative indocyanine green angiography and postoperative CT angiography.

The video can be found here:

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A proposed grading system for arteriovenous malformations

Robert F. Spetzler and Neil A. Martin

✓ An important factor in making a recommendation for treatment of a patient with arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is to estimate the risk of surgery for that patient. A simple, broadly applicable grading system that is designed to predict the risk of morbidity and mortality attending the operative treatment of specific AVM's is proposed. The lesion is graded on the basis of size, pattern of venous drainage, and neurological eloquence of adjacent brain. All AVM's fall into one of six grades. Grade I malformations are small, superficial, and located in non-eloquent cortex; Grade V lesions are large, deep, and situated in neurologically critical areas; and Grade VI lesions are essentially inoperable AVM's.

Retrospective application of this grading scheme to a series of surgically excised AVM's has demonstrated its correlation with the incidence of postoperative neurological complications. The application of a standardized grading scheme will enable a comparison of results between various clinical series and between different treatment techniques, and will assist in the process of management decision-making.

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The 6 thalamic regions: surgical approaches to thalamic cavernous malformations, operative results, and clinical outcomes

Leonardo Rangel-Castilla and Robert F. Spetzler


The ideal surgical approach to thalamic cavernous malformations (CMs) varies according to their location within the thalamus. To standardize surgical approaches, the authors have divided the thalamus into 6 different regions and matched them with the corresponding surgical approach.


The regions were defined as Region 1 (anteroinferior), Region 2 (medial), Region 3 (lateral), Region 4 (posterosuperior), Region 5 (lateral posteroinferior), and Region 6 (medial posteroinferior). The senior author’s surgical experience with 46 thalamic CMs was reviewed according to this classification. An orbitozygomatic approach was used for Region 1; anterior ipsilateral transcallosal for Region 2; anterior contralateral transcallosal for Region 3; posterior transcallosal for Region 4; parietooccipital transventricularfor Region 5; and supracerebellar-infratentorial for Region 6.


Region 3 was the most common location (17 [37%]). There were 5 CMs in Region 1 (11%), 9 in Region 2 (20%), 17 in Region 3 (37%), 3 in Region 4 (6%), 4 in Region 5 (9%), and 8 in Region 6 (17%). Complete resection was achieved in all patients except for 2, who required a second-stage operation. The mean follow-up period was 1.7 years (range 6 months-9 years). At the last clinical follow-up, 40 patients (87%) had an excellent or good outcome (modified Rankin Scale [mRS] scores 0–2) and 6 (13%) had poor outcome (mRS scores 3–4). Relative to their preoperative condition, 42 patients (91%) were unchanged or improved, and 4 (9%) were worse.


The authors have presented the largest series reported to date of surgically treated thalamic CMs, achieving excellent results using this methodology. In the authors’ experience, conceptually dividing the thalamus into 6 different regions aids in the selection of the ideal surgical approach fora specific region.

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The quiet revolution: retractorless surgery for complex vascular and skull base lesions

Clinical article

Robert F. Spetzler and Nader Sanai


Smaller operative exposures, endoscopic approaches, and minimally invasive neurosurgery have emerged as a dominant trend in the modern era. In keeping with this evolution, the authors have recently eliminated the use of fixed retractors, instead employing dynamic retraction, with the use of handheld instruments. In the present study, the authors report the results of applying this strategy to challenging vascular and skull base lesions.


This 6-month study prospectively analyzed the use of retractorless surgery in a consecutive series of 223 patients with intracranial vascular or skull base lesions undergoing craniotomy. A single surgeon performed all operations.


The microsurgical approaches (in descending order of frequency) included an orbitozygomatic craniotomy (77 patients [35%]), frontal (36 patients [16%]), retrosigmoid (27 patients [12%]), interhemispheric (16 patients [7%]), and lateral supracerebellar (15 patients [7%]). The most common lesions were aneurysms (83 lesions overall [37%]), 18 of which required a bypass. Of 159 vascular lesions, there were also 46 cavernous malformations (29%). Meningiomas were the most common skull base tumors (37 cases [58%]). Of the 223 patients, 7 cases of various vascular and skull base lesions required fixed retraction. Therefore, 97% of the cases were successfully treated without a self-retaining retractor system.


Fixed retraction can be supplanted by dynamic retraction with surgical instruments, limiting the risk of retractor-induced tissue edema and injury. This quiet revolution has precipitated a major change in surgical techniques. Extensive dissection of arachnoidal planes, careful placement of the handheld suction device, patient positioning that enhances gravity retraction, the refinement of microsurgical instrumentation, and appropriate selection of the operative corridor all serve to obviate the need for fixed retraction in most intracranial procedures. Retractorless neurosurgery is an achievable goal, even when complex lesions of the vasculature and skull base are being treated.