Microsurgical management of glomus spinal arteriovenous malformations: pial resection technique

J Neurosurg Spine 16:523–531, 2012 .DOI: 10.3171/2012.3.SPINE11982

Intramedullary, or glomus, spinal arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are rare vascular lesions amenable to resection with or without adjuvant embolization. The authors retrospectively reviewed the senior author’s (R.F.S.’s) surgical series of intramedullary spinal AVMs to evaluate clinical and radiographic outcomes.

Detailed chart and radiographic reviews were performed for all patients with intramedullary spinal AVMs who underwent surgical treatment between 1994 and 2011. Presenting and follow-up neurological examination results were obtained and graded using the modified Rankin Scale (mRS) and McCormick Scale. Surgical technique, outcomes, complications, and long-term angiographic studies were reviewed.

During the study period, 20 patients (10 males and 10 females) underwent resection of glomus spinal AVMs. The mean age at presentation was 30 ± 17 years (range 7–62 years). The location of the AVMs was as follows: cervical spine (n = 10), thoracic spine (n = 9), and cervicothoracic junction (n = 1). The most common presenting signs and symptoms included paresis or paralysis (65%), paresthesias (40%), and myelopathy (40%). Perioperative embolization was performed in the majority (60%) of patients. Pial AVM resection was performed in 17 cases (85%). Angiographically verified AVM obliteration was achieved in 15 patients (75%). At a mean follow-up duration of 45.4 ± 52.4 months (range 2–176 months), 14 patients (70%) remained functionally independent (mRS and McCormick Scale scores ≤ 2). One perioperative complication occurred, yielding a surgical morbidity rate of 5%. Three symptomatic spinal cord tetherings occurred at a mean of 5.7 years after AVM resection. No neurological decline was observed after endovascular and surgical interventions. No deaths occurred. Long-term angiographic follow-up data were available for 9 patients (40%) at a mean of 67.6 ± 60.3 months (range 5–176 months) following AVM resection. Durable AVM obliteration was documented in 5 (83%) of 6 patients.

Intramedullary AVMs may be safely resected with satisfactory clinical and angiographic results. The pial resection technique, which provides subtotal AVM nidus resection, effectively devascularized these lesions, as confirmed on postoperative angiography, without violating the spinal cord parenchyma, thereby potentially reducing iatrogenic injury.