Panacea or problem: flow diverters in the treatment of symptomatic large or giant fusiform vertebrobasilar aneurysms

Clinical article

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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery and Toshiba Stroke Research Center; and
  • 2 Department of Radiology, University at Buffalo, State University of New York;
  • 3 Department of Neurosurgery, Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital/Kaleida Health, Buffalo, New York; and
  • 4 Division of Neurosurgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
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Object

The use of flow-diverting stents has gained momentum as a curative approach in the treatment of complex proximal anterior circulation intracranial aneurysms. There have been some reported attempts of treating formidable lesions in the posterior circulation. Posterior circulation giant fusiform aneurysms have a particularly aggressive natural history. To date, no one approach has been shown to be comprehensively effective or low risk. The authors report the initial results, including the significant morbidity and mortality encountered, with flow diversion in the treatment of large or giant fusiform vertebrobasilar aneurysms at Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital.

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed their prospectively collected endovascular database to identify patients with intracranial aneurysms who underwent treatment with flow-diverting devices and determined that 7 patients had presented with symptomatic large or giant fusiform vertebrobasilar aneurysms. The outcomes of these patients, based on the modified Rankin Scale (mRS), were tabulated, as were the complications experienced.

Results

Among the 7 patients, Pipeline devices were placed in 6 patients and Silk devices in 1 patient. At the last follow-up evaluation, 4 patients had died (mRS score of 6), all of whom were treated with the Pipeline device. The other 3 patients had mRS scores of 5 (severe disability), 1, and 0. The deaths included posttreatment aneurysm ruptures in 2 patients and lack of improvement in neurological status related to presenting brainstem infarcts and subsequent withdrawal of care in the other 2 patients.

Conclusions

Whether flow diversion will be an effective strategy for treatment of large or giant fusiform vertebrobasilar aneurysms remains to be seen. The authors' initial experience suggests substantial morbidity and mortality associated with the treatment and with the natural history. As outcomes data slowly become available for patients receiving these devices for fusiform posterior circulation aneurysms, practitioners should use these devices judiciously.

Abbreviations used in this paper:BA = basilar artery; mRS = modified Rankin Scale; PITA = Pipeline embolization device for the Intracranial Treatment of Aneurysms; SAH = subarachnoid hemorrhage; VA = vertebral artery.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Elad I. Levy, M.D., University at Buffalo Neurosurgery, Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital/Kaleida Health, 3 Gates Circle, Buffalo, New York 14209. email: elevy@ubns.com.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online March 9, 2012; DOI: 10.3171/2012.2.JNS111942.

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