Endovascular treatment of brain arteriovenous malformations: clinical outcomes of patients included in the registry of a pragmatic randomized trial

J Neurosurg 138:1393–1402, 2023

The role of endovascular treatment in the management of patients with brain arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) remains uncertain. AVM embolization can be offered as stand-alone curative therapy or prior to surgery or stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) (pre-embolization). The Treatment of Brain AVMs Study (TOBAS) is an all-inclusive pragmatic study that comprises two randomized trials and multiple registries.

METHODS Results from the TOBAS curative and pre-embolization registries are reported. The primary outcome for this report is death or dependency (modified Rankin Scale [mRS] score > 2) at last follow-up. Secondary outcomes include angiographic results, perioperative serious adverse events (SAEs), and permanent treatment-related complications leading to an mRS score > 2.

RESULTS From June 2014 to May 2021, 1010 patients were recruited in TOBAS. Embolization was chosen as the primary curative treatment for 116 patients and pre-embolization prior to surgery or SRS for 92 patients. Clinical and angiographic outcomes were available in 106 (91%) of 116 and 77 (84%) of 92 patients, respectively. In the curative embolization registry, 70% of AVMs were ruptured, and 62% were low-grade AVMs (Spetzler-Martin grade I or II), while the pre-embolization registry had 70% ruptured AVMs and 58% low-grade AVMs. The primary outcome of death or disability (mRS score > 2) occurred in 15 (14%, 95% CI 8%–22%) of the 106 patients in the curative embolization registry (4 [12%, 95% CI 5%–28%] of 32 unruptured AVMs and 11 [15%, 95% CI 8%–25%] of 74 ruptured AVMs) and 9 (12%, 95% CI 6%–21%) of the 77 patients in the pre-embolization registry (4 [17%, 95% CI 7%–37%] of 23 unruptured AVMs and 5 [9%, 95% CI 4%–20%] of 54 ruptured AVMs) at 2 years. Embolization alone was confirmed to occlude the AVM in 32 (30%, 95% CI 21%–40%) of the 106 curative attempts and in 9 (12%, 95% CI 6%–21%) of 77 patients in the pre-embolization registry. SAEs occurred in 28 of the 106 attempted curative patients (26%, 95% CI 18%–35%, including 21 new symptomatic hemorrhages [20%, 95% CI 13%–29%]). Five of the new hemorrhages were in previously unruptured AVMs (n = 32; 16%, 95% CI 5%–33%). Of the 77 pre-embolization patients, 18 had SAEs (23%, 95% CI 15%–34%), including 12 new symptomatic hemorrhages [16%, 95% CI 9%–26%]). Three of the hemorrhages were in previously unruptured AVMs (3/23; 13%, 95% CI 3%–34%).

CONCLUSIONS Embolization as a curative treatment for brain AVMs was often incomplete. Hemorrhagic complications were frequent, even when the specified intent was pre-embolization before surgery or SRS. Because the role of endovascular treatment remains uncertain, it should preferably, when possible, be offered in the context of a randomized trial.