Asymptomatic spinal dural arteriovenous fistulas: pathomechanical considerations

Clinical article

Kenichi Sato M.D., Ph.D. 1 , 2 , 3 , Karel G. TerBrugge M.D. 1 , and Timo Krings M.D., Ph.D. 1
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  • 1 Department of Medical Imaging, Toronto Western Hospital, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
  • 2 Department of Neuroendovascular Therapy, Kohnan Hospital; and
  • 3 Department of Neurosurgery, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan
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Object

Spinal dural arteriovenous fistulas (SDAVFs) consist of a shunt with converging feeding vessels arising from radiculomeningeal arteries and draining retrogradely via a radicular vein into the perimedullary veins, thereby causing progressive myelopathy due to venous hypertension in the spinal cord. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the hypothesis that the obstruction of radicular venous outlets could be an additional factor inducing symptomatic venous hypertension due to a decreased outflow in SDAVFs.

Methods

The authors compared the clinical and imaging findings in patients with asymptomatic SDAVFs identified incidentally at the upper thoracic region with the findings in symptomatic patients who harbored SDAVFs at the same level.

Results

All symptomatic patients presented with medullary dysfunction. The mean age of patients with asymptomatic SDAVF was 51.5 years, approximately 10 years younger than the patients with symptomatic SDAVF (64.1 years old). Despite the existence of dilated perimedullary vessels in the dorsal side of the spinal cord in all patients, the spinal cord edema seen in symptomatic patients was not detected on the MR images obtained in patients with asymptomatic SDAVF. The spinal angiograms of the asymptomatic patients distinctively demonstrated early radicular venous outflow from affected perimedullary veins to the extradural venous plexus as a potential alternate route for the venous hypertension to be released.

Conclusions

Obstruction of the radicular venous outflow could be an important factor in inducing spinal congestive edema due to venous hypertension, as well as subsequent clinical symptoms of SDAVFs.

Abbreviations used in this paper:ASA = anterior spinal artery; SDAVF = spinal dural arteriovenous fistula.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Timo Krings, M.D., Ph.D., University of Toronto, Toronto Western Hospital, UHN, Division of Neuroradiology, 399 Bathurst Street, 3MCL-429, Toronto, Ontario M5T 2S8, Canada. email: timo.krings@uhn.ca.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online March 2, 2012; DOI: 10.3171/2012.2.SPINE11500.

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