Timing, severity of deficits, and clinical improvement after surgery for spinal dural arteriovenous fistulas

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OBJECTIVE Spinal dural arteriovenous fistulas (dAVFs) are rare vascular abnormalities caused by arteriovenous shunting. They often form at the dural root sleeve between a radicular feeding artery and draining medullary vein causing venous congestion and edema, decreased perfusion, and ischemia of the spinal cord. Treatment consists of either surgical ligation of the draining vein or selective embolization via an endovascular approach. There is a paucity of data on which modality provides more durable and effective outcomes. METHODS The authors performed a retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database by the senior author to assess clinical outcomes in patients undergoing surgical treatment of spinal dAVFs. Preoperative and postoperative motor and Aminoff-Logue Scale (ALS) scores were collected. RESULTS A total of 41 patients with 44 spinal dAVFs were identified, with a mean patient age of 64 years. The mean symptom duration was 14 months, with weakness (82%), urinary symptoms (47%), and sensory symptoms (29%) at presentation. The fistula locations were as follows: 30 thoracic, 9 lumbar, 3 sacral, and 2 cervical. Five patients had normal motor and ALS scores at presentation. Among the remaining 36 patients with motor deficits or abnormal gait and micturition at presentation, 78% experienced an improvement while the remaining 22% continued to be stable. There was a trend toward improved outcomes in patients with shorter symptom duration; mean symptom duration among patients with clinical improvement was 13 months compared with 22 months among those without improvement. Additionally, rates of improvement were higher for lower thoracic and lumbosacral dAVFs (85% and 83%) compared with those in the upper thoracic spine (57%). No patient developed recurrent fistulas or worsening neurological deficits. CONCLUSIONS Surgery is associated with excellent outcomes in the treatment of spinal dAVFs. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical, with a trend toward improved outcomes. No patient in this study had fistula recurrence or worsening of symptoms. Among patients with abnormal motor or ALS scores, 78% improved after surgery. Therapeutic embolization is an option for some lesions, but for cases with unfavorable anatomy where embolization is not feasible, surgery is a safe option associated with high success.

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Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine









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