A taxonomy for deep cerebral cavernous malformations: subtypes of thalamic lesions

J Neurosurg 139:1681–1696, 2023

Anatomical taxonomy is a practical tool to successfully guide clinical decision-making for patients with brain arteriovenous malformations and brainstem cavernous malformations (CMs). Deep cerebral CMs are complex, difficult to access, and highly variable in size, shape, and position. The authors propose a novel taxonomic system for deep CMs in the thalamus based on clinical presentation (syndromes) and anatomical location (identified on MRI).

METHODS The taxonomic system was developed and applied to an extensive 2-surgeon experience from 2001 through 2019. Deep CMs involving the thalamus were identified. These CMs were subtyped on the basis of the predominant surface presentation identified on preoperative MRI. Six subtypes among 75 thalamic CMs were defined: anterior (7/75, 9%), medial (22/75, 29%), lateral (10/75, 13%), choroidal (9/75, 12%), pulvinar (19/75, 25%), and geniculate (8/75, 11%). Neurological outcomes were assessed using modified Rankin Scale (mRS) scores. A postoperative score ≤ 2 was defined as a favorable outcome and > 2 as a poor outcome. Clinical and surgical characteristics and neurological outcomes were compared among subtypes.

RESULTS Seventy-five patients underwent resection of thalamic CMs and had clinical and radiological data available. Their mean age was 40.9 (SD 15.2) years. Each thalamic CM subtype was associated with a recognizable constellation of neurological symptoms. The common symptoms were severe or worsening headaches (30/75, 40%), hemiparesis (27/75, 36%), hemianesthesia (21/75, 28%), blurred vision (14/75, 19%), and hydrocephalus (9/75, 12%). The thalamic CM subtype determined the selection of surgical approach. A single approach was associated with each subtype for most patients. The main exception to this paradigm was that in the surgeons’ early experience, pulvinar CMs were resected through a superior parietal lobule–transatrial approach (4/19, 21%), which later evolved to the paramedian supracerebellar-infratentorial approach (12/19, 63%). Relative outcomes implied by mRS scores were unchanged or improved in most patients (61/66, 92%) postoperatively.

CONCLUSIONS This study confirms the authors’ hypothesis that this taxonomy for thalamic CMs can meaningfully guide the selection of surgical approach and resection strategy. The proposed taxonomy can increase diagnostic acumen at the patient bedside, help identify optimal surgical approaches, enhance the clarity of clinical communications and publications, and improve patient outcomes.

A taxonomy for brainstem cavernous malformations: subtypes of medullary lesions

J Neurosurg 138:128–146, 2023

Medullary cavernous malformations are the least common of the brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs), accounting for only 14% of lesions in the authors’ surgical experience. In this article, a novel taxonomy for these lesions is proposed based on clinical presentation and anatomical location.

METHODS The taxonomy system was applied to a large 2-surgeon experience over a 30-year period (1990–2019). Of 601 patients who underwent microsurgical resection of BSCMs, 551 were identified who had the clinical and radiological information needed for inclusion. These 551 patients were classified by lesion location: midbrain (151 [27%]), pons (323 [59%]), and medulla (77 [14%]). Medullary lesions were subtyped on the basis of their predominant surface presentation. Neurological outcomes were assessed according to the modified Rankin Scale (mRS), with an mRS score ≤ 2 defined as favorable.

RESULTS Five distinct subtypes were defined for the 77 medullary BSCMs: pyramidal (3 [3.9%]), olivary (35 [46%]), cuneate (24 [31%]), gracile (5 [6.5%]), and trigonal (10 [13%]). Pyramidal lesions are located in the anterior medulla and were associated with hemiparesis and hypoglossal nerve palsy. Olivary lesions are found in the anterolateral medulla and were associated with ataxia. Cuneate lesions are located in the posterolateral medulla and were associated with ipsilateral upper-extremity sensory deficits. Gracile lesions are located outside the fourth ventricle in the posteroinferior medulla and were associated with ipsilateral lower-extremity sensory deficits. Trigonal lesions in the ventricular floor were associated with nausea, vomiting, and diplopia. A single surgical approach was preferred (> 90% of cases) for each medullary subtype: the far lateral approach for pyramidal and olivary lesions, the suboccipital-telovelar approach for cuneate lesions, the suboccipital-transcisterna magna approach for gracile lesions, and the suboccipital-transventricular approach for trigonal lesions. Of these 77 patients for whom follow-up data were available (n = 73), 63 (86%) had favorable outcomes and 67 (92%) had unchanged or improved functional status.

CONCLUSIONS This study confirms that the constellation of neurological signs and symptoms associated with a hemorrhagic medullary BSCM subtype is useful for defining the BSCM clinically according to a neurologically recognizable syndrome at the bedside. The proposed taxonomical classifications may be used to guide the selection of surgical approaches, which may enhance the consistency of clinical communications and help improve patient outcomes.

A taxonomy for brainstem cavernous malformations: subtypes of pontine lesions. Part 1: basilar, peritrigeminal, and middle peduncular

J Neurosurg 137:1462–1476, 2022

Brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs) are complex, difficult to access, and highly variable in size, shape, and position. The authors have proposed a novel taxonomy for pontine cavernous malformations (CMs) based upon clinical presentation (syndromes) and anatomical location (findings on MRI).

METHODS The proposed taxonomy was applied to a 30-year (1990–2019), 2-surgeon experience. Of 601 patients who underwent microsurgical resection of BSCMs, 551 with appropriate data were classified on the basis of BSCM location: midbrain (151 [27%]), pons (323 [59%]), and medulla (77 [14%]). Pontine lesions were then subtyped on the basis of their predominant surface presentation identified on preoperative MRI. Neurological outcomes were assessed according to the modified Rankin Scale, with a score ≤ 2 defined as favorable.

RESULTS The 323 pontine BSCMs were classified into 6 distinct subtypes: basilar (6 [1.9%]), peritrigeminal (53 [16.4%]), middle peduncular (MP) (100 [31.0%]), inferior peduncular (47 [14.6%]), rhomboid (80 [24.8%]), and supraolivary (37 [11.5%]). Part 1 of this 2-part series describes the taxonomic basis for the first 3 of these 6 subtypes of pontine CM. Basilar lesions are located in the anteromedial pons and associated with contralateral hemiparesis. Peritrigeminal lesions are located in the anterolateral pons and are associated with hemiparesis and sensory changes. Patients with MP lesions presented with mild anterior inferior cerebellar artery syndrome with contralateral hemisensory loss, ipsilateral ataxia, and ipsilateral facial numbness without cranial neuropathies. A single surgical approach and strategy were preferred for each subtype: for basilar lesions, the pterional craniotomy and anterior transpetrous approach was preferred; for peritrigeminal lesions, extended retrosigmoid craniotomy and transcerebellopontine angle approach; and for MP lesions, extended retrosigmoid craniotomy and trans–middle cerebellar peduncle approach. Favorable outcomes were observed in 123 of 143 (86%) patients with follow-up data. There were no significant differences in outcomes between the 3 subtypes or any other subtypes.

CONCLUSIONS The neurological symptoms and key localizing signs associated with a hemorrhagic pontine subtype can help to define that subtype clinically. The proposed taxonomy for pontine CMs meaningfully guides surgical strategy and may improve patient outcomes.

Neurological event prediction for patients with symptomatic cerebral cavernous malformation: the BLED 2 score

J Neurosurg 137:344–351, 2022

Retrospective patient cohort studies have identified risk factors associated with recurrent focal neurological events in patients with symptomatic cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs). Using a prospectively maintained database of patients with CCMs, this study identified key risk factors for recurrent neurological events in patients with symptomatic CCM. A simple scoring system and risk stratification calculator was then created to predict future neurological events in patients with symptomatic CCMs.

METHODS This was a dual-center, prospectively acquired, retrospectively analyzed cohort study. Adult patients who presented with symptomatic CCMs causing focal neurological deficits or seizures were uniformly treated and clinically followed from the time of diagnosis onward. Baseline variables included age, sex, history of intracerebral hemorrhage, lesion multiplicity, location, eloquence, size, number of past neurological events, and duration since last event. Stepwise multivariable Cox regression was used to derive independent predictors of recurrent neurological events, and predictive accuracy was assessed. A scoring system based on the relative magnitude of each risk factor was devised, and KaplanMeier curve analysis was used to compare event-free survival among patients with different score values. Subsequently, 1-, 2-, and 5-year neurological event rates were calculated for every score value on the basis of the final model.

RESULTS In total, 126 (47%) of 270 patients met the inclusion criteria. During the mean (interquartile range) follow-up of 54.4 (12–66) months, 55 patients (44%) experienced recurrent neurological events. Multivariable analysis yielded 4 risk factors: bleeding at presentation (HR 1.92, p = 0.048), large size ≥ 12 mm (HR 2.06, p = 0.016), eloquent location (HR 3.01, p = 0.013), and duration ≤ 1 year since last event (HR 9.28, p = 0.002). The model achieved an optimism-corrected c-statistic of 0.7209. All factors were assigned 1 point, except duration from last event which was assigned 2 points. The acronym BLED 2 summarizes the scoring system. The 1-, 2-, and 5-year risks of a recurrent neurological event ranged from 0.6%, 1.2%, and 2.3%, respectively, for patients with a BLED 2 score of 0, to 48%, 74%, and 93%, respectively, for patients with a BLED 2 score of 5.

CONCLUSIONS The BLED 2 risk score predicts prospective neurological events in symptomatic CCM patients.

Endoscope‐assisted resection of brainstem cavernous malformations

Neurosurgical Review (2022) 45:2823–2836

Targeted surgical precision and minimally invasive techniques are of utmost importance for resectioning cavernous malformations involving the brainstem region. Minimisation of the surgical corridor is desirable but should not compromise the extent of resection.

This study provides detailed information on the role of endoscopy in this challenging surgical task. A retrospective analysis of medical documentation, radiologic studies and detailed intraoperative video documentation was performed for all consecutive patients who underwent surgical resection of brainstem cavernous malformations between 2010 and 2020 at the authors’ institution.

A case-based volumetry of the corticotomy was performed and compared to cavernoma dimensions. A total of 20 procedures have been performed in 19 patients. Neuroendoscopy was implemented in all cases. The mean size of the lesion was 5.4 (± 5) mm3. The average size of the brainstem corticotomy was 4.5 × 3.7 (± 1.0 × 1.1) mm, with a median relation to the cavernoma’s dimension of 9.99% (1.2–31.39%). Endoscopic 360° inspection of the resection cavity was feasible in all cases. There were no endoscopy-related complications. Mean follow-up was 27.8 (12–89) months.

Gross-total resection was achieved in all but one case (95%). Sixteen procedures (80%) resulted in an improved or stable medical condition. Eleven patients (61.1%) showed further improvement 12 months after the initial surgery. With the experience provided, endoscopic techniques can be safely implemented in surgery for BSCM. A combination of neuroendoscopic visualisation and neuronavigation might enable a targeted size of brainstem corticotomy.

Endoscopy can currently be considered a valuable additive tool to facilitate the preparation and resection of BSCM.

A taxonomy for brainstem cavernous malformations: subtypes of midbrain lesions

J Neurosurg 136:1667–1686, 2022

Anatomical taxonomy is a practical tool that has successfully guided clinical decision-making for patients with brain arteriovenous malformations. Brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs) are similarly complex lesions that are difficult to access and highly variable in size, shape, and position. The authors propose a novel taxonomy for midbrain cavernous malformations based on clinical presentation (syndromes) and anatomical location (identified with MRI).

METHODS The taxonomy system was developed and applied to an extensive 2-surgeon experience over a 30-year period (1990–2019). Of 551 patients with appropriate data who underwent microsurgical resection of BSCMs, 151 (27.4%) had midbrain lesions. These lesions were further subtyped on the basis of predominant surface presentation identified on preoperative MRI. Five distinct subtypes of midbrain BSCMs were defined: interpeduncular (7 lesions [4.6%]), peduncular (37 [24.5%]), tegmental (73 [48.3%]), quadrigeminal (27 [17.9%]), and periaqueductal (7 [4.6%]). Neurological outcomes were assessed using modified Rankin Scale (mRS) scores. A postoperative score ≤ 2 was defined as a favorable outcome; a score > 2 was defined as a poor outcome. Clinical and surgical characteristics and neurological outcomes were compared among subtypes.

RESULTS Each midbrain BSCM subtype was associated with a recognizable constellation of neurological symptoms. Patients with interpeduncular lesions commonly presented with ipsilateral oculomotor nerve palsy and contralateral cerebellar ataxia or dyscoordination. Peduncular lesions were associated with contralateral hemiparesis and ipsilateral oculomotor nerve palsy. Patients with tegmental lesions were the most likely to present with contralateral sensory deficits, whereas those with quadrigeminal lesions commonly presented with the features of Parinaud syndrome. Periaqueductal lesions were the most likely to cause obstructive hydrocephalus. A single surgical approach was preferred (> 90% of cases) for each midbrain subtype: interpeduncular (transsylvian-interpeduncular approach [7/7 lesions]), peduncular (transsylvian-transpeduncular [24/37]), tegmental (lateral supracerebellar-infratentorial [73/73]), quadrigeminal (midline or paramedian supracerebellar-infratentorial [27/27]), and periaqueductal (transcallosal-transchoroidal fissure [6/7]). Favorable outcomes (mRS score ≤ 2) were observed in most patients (110/136 [80.9%]) with follow-up data. No significant differences in outcomes were observed between subtypes (p = 0.92).

CONCLUSIONS The study confirmed the authors’ hypothesis that taxonomy for midbrain BSCMs can meaningfully guide the selection of surgical approach and resection strategy. The proposed taxonomy can increase diagnostic acumen at the patient bedside, help identify optimal surgical approaches, enhance the consistency of clinical communications and publications, and improve patient outcomes.



Anatomo‑functional evaluation for management and surgical treatment of insular cavernous malformation: a case series

Acta Neurochirurgica (2022) 164:1675–1684

Insular cavernous malformations (iCMs) are very rare vascular lesions. Their surgical management is chal- lenging, due to their complex functional and vascular relationship. The continuous improvement of intra-operative tools and neuroimaging techniques has progressively enhanced the safety of iCM surgery. Nevertheless, the best surgical approach remains controversial.

Objective To analyze the potential role of an anatomo-functional classification to guide the iCMs’ management.

Methods The study included patients affected by iCMs and referred to the Senior Author (FA). All cases were divided in 2 groups, according to a mainly pial growth pattern (exophytic group) or a subcortical one (endophytic group). Endophytic iCM was further subdivided in 3 subgroups, based on the insular gyri involved. According to this classification, each patient underwent a specific additional neuroimaging investigation and surgical evaluation.

Results A total of 24 patients were included. In the surgical group, trans-sylvian (TS) approach was used in 6 patients with exophytic or Zone I endophytic iCMs. The transcortical (TC) approach with awake monitoring was used in 6 cases of Zone II endophytic vascular lesions. Both TS and trans-intraparietal sulcal (TIS) approach were used for 3 cases of Zone III endophytic iCM. At follow-up, 3 patients were fully recovered from a transient speech impairment while a permanent morbidity was observed in one case.

Conclusions ICMs represent a single entity with peculiar clinical and surgical aspects. The proposed iCM classification focuses on anatomical and functional concerns, aiming to suggest the best pre-operative work-up and the surgical evaluation.

Basal ganglia cavernous malformations: case series and systematic review of surgical management and long-term outcomes

J Neurosurg 135:1113–1121, 2021

Reports on basal ganglia cavernous malformations (BGCMs) are rare. Here, the authors report on their experience in resecting these malformations to offer insight into this infrequent disease subtype.

METHODS The authors retrospectively reviewed a prospectively managed departmental database of all deep-seated cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) treated at Stanford between 1987 and 2019 and included for further analysis those with a radiographic diagnosis of BGCM. Moreover, a systematic literature review was undertaken using the PubMed and Web of Science databases.

RESULTS The departmental database search yielded 331 patients with deep-seated CCMs, 44 of whom had a BGCM (13.3%). Headache was the most common presenting sign (53.5%), followed by seizure (32.6%) and hemiparesis (27.9%). Lesion location involved the caudate nucleus in 21.4% of cases compared to 78.6% of cases within the lentiform nucleus. Caudate BGCMs were larger on presentation and were more likely to present to the ependymal surface (p < 0.001) with intraventricular hemorrhage and hydrocephalus (p = 0.005 and 0.007, respectively). Dizziness and diplopia were also more common with lesions involving the caudate. Because of their anatomical location, caudate BGCMs were preferentially treated via an interhemispheric approach and were less likely to be associated with worsening perioperative deficits than lentiform BGCMs (p = 0.006 and 0.045, respectively). Ten patients (25.6%) were clinically worse in the immediate postoperative period, 4 (10.2%) of whom continued to suffer permanent morbidity at the last follow-up. A longterm good outcome (modified Rankin Scale [mRS] score 0–1) was attained in 74.4% of cases compared to the 69.2% of patients who had presented with an mRS score 0–1. Relative to their presenting mRS score, 89.8% of patients had an improved or unchanged status at the last follow-up. The median postoperative follow-up was 11 months (range 1–252 months). Patient outcomes after resection did not differ among surgical approaches; however, patients presenting with hemiparesis and lesions involving the globus pallidus or posterior limb of the internal capsule were more likely to suffer neurological deficits during the immediate perioperative period. Patients who had undergone awake surgeries were more likely to suffer neurological decline at the early as well as the late follow-up. When adjusting for awake craniotomy as a potential confounder of lesion location, a BGCM involving the posterior limb was predictive of developing early postoperative deficits, but this finding did not persist at the long-term follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS Surgery is a safe and effective treatment modality for managing BGCMs, with an estimated long-term permanent morbidity rate of around 10%.


Recurrent brainstem cavernous malformations following primary resection

J Neurosurg 135:671–682, 2021

Proximity of brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs) to tracts and cranial nerve nuclei make it costly to transgress normal tissue in accessing the lesion or disrupting normal tissue adjacent to the lesion in the separation plane. This interplay between tissue sensitivity and extreme eloquence makes it difficult to avoid leaving a remnant on occasion. Recurrences require operative intervention, which may increase morbidity, lengthen recovery, and add to overall costs. An approximately 20-year experience with patients with recurrent BSCM lesions following primary microsurgical resection was reviewed.

METHODS A prospectively maintained database of 802 patients who underwent microsurgical resection of cerebral cavernous malformations during 1997–2018 was queried to identify 213 patients with BSCMs. A retrospective chart review was conducted for patients with recurrent BSCM after primary resection who required a second surgery.

RESULTS Fourteen of 213 patients (6.6%) underwent repeat resection for recurrent BSCM. Thirty-four hemorrhagic events were observed among these 14 patients over 576 patient-years (recurrent hemorrhage rate, 5.9% per year; median discrete hemorrhagic events, 2; median time to rehemorrhage, 897 days). BSCM occurred in the pons in 10 cases, midbrain in 2 cases, and medulla in 2 cases. A blind spot in the operative corridor was the most common cause of residual BSCM (9 patients). All recurrent BSCMs were removed completely, although 2 patients each required 2 operations to treat recurrence. Twelve patients had unchanged or improved modified Rankin Scale scores at last clinical evaluation compared with admission, and 2 patients had worse scores. Recurrence was more common among patients who were operated on in the first versus the second half of the series (8.5% vs 4.7%).

CONCLUSIONS The 6.6% rate of BSCM recurrence requiring reoperation reflects the fine lines between complete resection and recurrence and between safe and harmful surgery. The detection of remnants is difficult postoperatively and remains so even at 6 months when the resection bed has healed. The 5.9% annual hemorrhage risk associated with recurrent BSCM in this experience is consistent with that reported for unoperated BSCMs. The right-angle method helps to anticipate blind spots and meticulously inspect the resection cavity for residual BSCM during surgery. A low percentage of recurrent BSCM (5%–10%) ensures ongoing effort toward an acceptable balance of safety and completeness.

Natural history of brainstem cavernous malformations

J Neurosurg 134:917–928, 2021

Given the paucity of data on the natural history of brainstem cavernous malformations (CMs), the authors aimed to evaluate the annual hemorrhage rate and hemorrhagic risk of brainstem CMs.

METHODS Nine hundred seventy-nine patients diagnosed with brainstem CMs were referred to Beijing Tiantan Hospital from 2006 to 2015; 224 patients were excluded according to exclusion criteria, and 47 patients were lost to follow-up. Thus, this prospective observational cohort included 708 cases (324 females). All patients were registered, clinical data were recorded, and follow-up was completed.

RESULTS Six hundred ninety (97.5%) of the 708 patients had a prior hemorrhage, 514 (72.6%) had hemorrhagic presentation, and developmental venous anomaly (DVA) was observed in 241 cases (34.0%). Two hundred thirty-seven prospective hemorrhages occurred in 175 patients (24.7%) during 3400.2 total patient-years, yielding a prospective annual hemorrhage rate of 7.0% (95% CI 6.2%–7.9%), which decreased to 4.7% after the 1st year. Multivariate Cox regression analysis after adjusting for sex and age identified hemorrhagic presentation (HR 1.574, p = 0.022), DVA (HR 1.678, p = 0.001), mRS score ≥ 2 on admission (HR 1.379, p = 0.044), lesion size > 1.5 cm (HR 1.458, p = 0.026), crossing the axial midpoint (HR 1.446, p = 0.029), and superficially seated location (HR 1.307, p = 0.025) as independent adverse factors for prospective hemorrhage, but history of prior hemorrhage was not significant. The annual hemorrhage rates were 8.3% and 4.3% in patients with and without hemorrhagic presentation, respectively; the rate was 9.9%, 6.0%, and 1.0% in patients with ≥ 2, only 1, and 0 prior hemorrhages, respectively; and the rate was 9.2% in patients with both hemorrhagic presentation and focal neurological deficit on admission.

CONCLUSIONS The study reported an annual hemorrhage rate of 7.0% exclusively for brainstem CMs, which significantly increased if patients presented with both hemorrhagic presentation and focal neurological deficit (9.2%), or any other risk factor. Patients with a risk factor for hemorrhage needed close follow-up regardless of the number of prior hemorrhages. It should be noted that the referral bias in this study could have overestimated the annual hemorrhage rate. This study improved the understanding of the natural history of brainstem CMs, and the results are important for helping patients and physicians choose a suitable treatment option based on the risk factors and stratified annual rates. Clinical trial registration no.: ChiCTR-POC-17011575 (http://www.chictr.org.cn/).

Cavernous angiomas: deconstructing a neurosurgical disease

J Neurosurg 131:1–13, 2019

Cavernous angioma (CA) is also known as cavernoma, cavernous hemangioma, and cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM) (National Library of Medicine Medical Subject heading unique ID D006392). In its sporadic form, CA occurs as a solitary hemorrhagic vascular lesion or as clustered lesions associated with a developmental venous anomaly. In its autosomal dominant familial form (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man #116860), CA is caused by a heterozygous germ-line loss-of-function mutation in one of three genes—CCM1/KRIT1, CCM2/Malcavernin, and CCM3/PDCD10—causing multifocal lesions throughout the brain and spinal cord.

In this paper, the authors review the cardinal features of CA’s disease pathology and clinical radiological features. They summarize key aspects of CA’s natural history and broad elements of evidence-based management guidelines, including surgery. The authors also discuss evidence of similar genetic defects in sporadic and familial lesions, consequences of CCM gene loss in different tissues at various stages of development, and implications regarding the pathobiology of CAs.

The concept of CA with symptomatic hemorrhage (CASH) is presented as well as its relevance to clinical care and research in the field. Pathobiological mechanisms related to CA include inflammation and immune-mediated processes, angiogenesis and vascular permeability, microbiome driven factors, and lesional anticoagulant domains. These mechanisms have motivated the development of imaging and plasma biomarkers of relevant disease behavior and promising therapeutic targets.

The spectrum of discoveries about CA and their implications endorse CA as a paradigm for deconstructing a neurosurgical disease.


Impact of Timing of Intervention Among 397 Consecutively Treated Brainstem Cavernous Malformations

Neurosurgery 81:620–626, 2017

Surgical resection of brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs) is challenging, and patient selection and timing of intervention remain controversial.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the impact of surgical timing and predictors of neurological outcome after surgical resection of BSCMs.

METHODS: Consecutive adult patients (≥18 years) with BSCMs undergoing surgical resection between 1985 and 2014 by the senior author (RFS)were retrospectively reviewed. Patient demographics, lesion characteristics, imaging results, surgical approach, and perioperative and long-term neurological morbidity were analyzed.

RESULTS: Data were analyzed for a total of 397 adult patients (160, 40% male).On univariate analysis, a greater proportion of patients treated within 6 weeks of hemorrhage had an improved Glasgow Outcome Scale score (P = .06). On logistic regression analysis, patients treated within 6weeks of hemorrhage experienced improved clinical outcomes (odds ratio = 1.73; 95% confidence interval = 1.06-2.83; P = .03).

CONCLUSIONS: Although BSCM surgery is associated with significant perioperative morbidity and mortality, favorable long-term hemorrhage rates and symptom resolution can be achieved in a carefully selected group of patients. Overall, patients treated acutely, within 6 weeks, benefited the most from surgical intervention.

Clinical course of untreated thalamic cavernous malformations: hemorrhage risk and neurological outcomes

J Neurosurg 127:480–491, 2017

The natural history of cerebral cavernous malformations (CMs) has been widely studied, but the clinical course of untreated thalamic CMs is largely unknown. Hemorrhage of these lesions can be devastating. The authors undertook this study to obtain a prospective hemorrhage rate and provide a better understanding of the prognosis of untreated thalamic CMs.

METHODS This longitudinal cohort study included patients with thalamic CMs who were diagnosed between 2000 and 2015. Clinical data were recorded, radiological studies were extensively reviewed, and follow-up evaluations were performed.

RESULTS A total of 121 patients were included in the study (56.2% female), with a mean follow-up duration of 3.6 years. The overall annual hemorrhage rate (subsequent to the initial presentation) was calculated to be 9.7% based on the occurrence of 42 hemorrhages over 433.1 patient-years. This rate was highest in patients (n = 87) who initially presented with hemorrhage and focal neurological deficits (FNDs) (14.1%) (c2 = 15.358, p < 0.001), followed by patients (n = 19) with hemorrhage but without FND (4.5%) and patients (n = 15) without hemorrhage regardless of symptoms (1.2%). The initial patient presentations of hemorrhage with FND (hazard ratio [HR] 2.767, 95% CI 1.336–5.731, p = 0.006) and associated developmental venous anomaly (DVA) (HR 2.510, 95% CI 1.275–4.942, p = 0.008) were identified as independent hemorrhage risk factors. The annual hemorrhage rate was significantly higher in patients with hemorrhagic presentation at diagnosis (11.7%, p = 0.004) or DVA (15.7%, p = 0.002). Compared with the modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score at diagnosis (mean 2.2), the final mRS score (mean 2.0) was improved in 37 patients (30.6%), stable in 59 patients (48.8%), and worse in 25 patients (20.7%). Lesion size (odds ratio [OR] per 0.1 cm increase 3.410, 95% CI 1.272–9.146, p = 0.015) and mRS score at diagnosis (OR per 1 point increase 3.548, 95% CI 1.815–6.937, p < 0.001) were independent adverse risk factors for poor neurological outcome (mRS score ≥ 2). Patients experiencing hemorrhage after the initial ictus (OR per 1 ictus increase 6.923, 95% CI 3.023–15.855, p < 0.001) had a greater chance of worsened neurological status.

CONCLUSIONS This study verified the adverse predictors for hemorrhage and functional outcomes of thalamic CMs and demonstrated an overall annual symptomatic hemorrhage rate of 9.7% after the initial presentation. These findings and the mode of initial presentation are useful for clinicians and patients when selecting an appropriate treatment, although the tertiary referral bias of the series should be taken into account.

Which Cerebral Cavernous Malformations are Most Difficult to Dissect From Surrounding Eloquent Brain Tissue?

Neurosurgery 81:498–503, 2017

Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM) may lead to repetitive intracerebral hemorrhage. In selected cases, a surgical resection is indicated.

OBJECTIVE: To identify magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) features of CCM that correlate with the difficulty of dissection and postoperative outcome.

METHODS: This study prospectively analyzed pre- and postoperative MRI features, intraoperative findings (surgical questionnaire), and postoperative outcome of 41 patients with eloquent CCM. Based on the results of the surgeon’s questionnaire and postoperative MRI findings, all surgical procedureswere dichotomized in a “difficult”(groupA) or “not difficult” (group B) lesion dissection. Based on the correlation of preoperative MRI features with groups A and B, a 3-tiered classification was established and tested for sensitivity and specificity.

RESULTS: In 22 patients, dissection of the lesion was rated difficult. This was significantly correlated with amount of postoperative diffusion restriction on MRI (P=.001) and postoperative outcome(P=.05). Various preoperative MRI featureswere tested for correlation and combined in a 3-tiered classification. Receiver operating characteristics revealed excellent and good results for predicting difficulty of dissection for the different classification types.

CONCLUSION: We provide a meticulous analysis and new classification of preoperative MRI features that seem to be involved in the microsurgical resection of CCM.

Hemorrhage from cerebral cavernous malformations

J Neurosurg 126:1079–1087, 2017

The aim of this paper is to define an overall cavernous malformation (CM) hemorrhage rate and risk factors for hemorrhage.

METHODS The authors performed a systematic, pooled analysis via the PubMed database through October 2015 using the terms “cavernoma,” “cavernous malformation,” “natural history,” “bleeding,” and “hemorrhage.” English-language studies providing annual rates and/or risk factors for CM hemorrhage were included. Data extraction, performed independently by the authors, included demographic data, hemorrhage rates, and hemorrhage risk factors.

RESULTS Across 12 natural history studies with 1610 patients, the mean age at presentation was 42.7 years old and 52% of patients (95% CI 49%–55%) were female. Presentation modality was seizure in 30% (95% CI 25%–35%), hemorrhage in 26% (95% CI 17%–37%), incidental in 17% (95% CI 9%–31%), and focal deficits only in 16% of cases (95% CI 11%–23%). CM location was lobar in 66% (95% CI 61%–70%), brainstem in 18% (95% CI 13%–24%), deep supratentorial in 8% (95% CI 6%–10%), and cerebellar in 8% (95% CI 5%–11%). Pooling 7 studies that did not assume CM presence since birth, the annual hemorrhage rate was 2.5% per patient-year over 5081.2 patient-years of follow-up (95% CI 1.3%–5.1%). Pooling hazard ratios across 5 studies that evaluated hemorrhage risk factors, prior CM hemorrhage was a significant risk factor for hemorrhage (HR 3.73, 95% CI 1.26–11.1; p = 0.02) while younger age, female sex, deep location, size, multiplicity, and associated developmental venous anomalies (DVAs) were not.

CONCLUSIONS Although limited by the heterogeneity of incorporated reports and selection bias, this study found prior hemorrhage to be a significant risk factor for CM bleeding, while age, sex, CM location, size, multiplicity, and associated DVAs were not. Future natural history studies should compound annual hemorrhage rate with prospective seizure and nonhemorrhagic neurological deficit rates.

Transulcal parafascicular minimally invasive approach to deep and subcortical cavernomas

J Neurosurg 125:1360–1366, 2016

Cavernomas comprise 8%–15% of intracranial vascular lesions, usually supratentorial in location and superficial. Cavernomas in the thalamus or subcortical white matter represent a unique challenge for surgeons in trying to identify and then use a safe corridor to access and resect the pathology.

Previous authors have described specific open microsurgical corridors based on pathology location, often with technical difficulty and morbidity.

This series presents 2 cavernomas that were resected using a minimally invasive approach that is less technically demanding and has a good safety profile. The authors report 2 cases of cavernoma: one in the thalamus and brainstem with multiple hemorrhages and the other in eloquent subcortical white matter. These lesions were resected through a transulcal parafascicular approach with a port-based minimally invasive technique.

In this series there was complete resection with no neurological complications. The transulcal parafascicular minimally invasive approach relies on image interpretation and trajectory planning, intraoperative navigation, cortical cannulation and subcortical space access, high-quality optics, and resection as key elements to minimize exposure and retraction and maximize tissue preservation. The authors applied this technique to 2 patients with cavernomas in eloquent locations with excellent outcomes.


Brainstem Cavernous Malformations: Surgical Results in 104 Patients and a Proposed Grading System to Predict Neurological Outcomes

Brainstem Cavernous Malformations- Surgical Results in 104 Patients and a Proposed Grading System to Predict Neurological Outcomes

Neurosurgery 76:265–278, 2015

Once considered inoperable lesions in inviolable territory, brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCM) are now surgically curable with acceptable operative morbidity. Recommending surgery is a difficult decision that would be facilitated by a grading system designed specifically for BSCMs that predicted surgical outcomes.

OBJECTIVE: Informed by our efforts to develop a supplementary grading system for arteriovenous malformations, we hypothesized that a similar system might predict long-term outcomes and guide clinical decision-making.

METHODS: A consecutive, single-surgeon series of 104 patients was used to assess preoperative clinical and imaging predictors of microsurgical outcomes. Univariable logistic regression identified predictors and a multivariable logistic regression model tested the association of the combined predictors with final modified Rankin Scale scores. A grading system assigned points for lesion size, location crossing the brainstem’s midpoint, presence of developmental venous anomaly, age, and time from last hemorrhage to surgery.

RESULTS: Average maximal diameter of BSCMs was 19.5 mm; 50% crossed the axial midpoint; 54.8% had developmental venous anomalies; mean age was 42.1 years; and median time from last hemorrhage to surgery was 60 days. One patient died (0.96%), and 15 patients (14.4%) experienced worsened cranial nerve or motor dysfunction, of which 10 increased their modified Rankin Scale scores (9.6%). BSCM grades ranged from 0 to 7 points and predicted outcomes with high accuracy (receiver operating characteristic = 0.86, 95% confidence interval: 0.78-0.94).

CONCLUSION: Rather than developing a grading system for all cerebral cavernous malformations that is weak with BSCMs, we propose a system for the patients who need it most. The BSCM grading system differentiates patients who might expect favorable surgical outcomes and offers guidance to neurosurgeons forced to select these patients.

De Novo Formation of a Cavernoma in a Thrombosed Developmental Venous Anomaly

Magnetic Resonance Evolution of De Novo Formation of a Cavernoma in a Thrombosed Developmental Venous Anomaly

Neurosurgery 73:E739–E745, 2013

Mechanisms that lead to de novo formations of nonfamilial-type cavernomas are not well understood. One of the interesting hypotheses is the causative relationship between developmental venous anomaly (DVA) and cavernoma formation. We report a unique case in which serial imaging demonstrated the evolution of de novo formation of a cavernoma in association with a thrombosed DVA. A detailed review of the causal hypothesis between a DVA and cavernoma is also provided.

CLINICAL PRESENTATION: We report a 37-year-old female patient in whom a cavernoma-like lesion arose 1 year after the progressive thrombosis of a medullary (or caput medusa) vein of a DVA. The presence of an acute angulation in the draining vein may have prompted an intrinsic outflow restriction. Possible worsening of venous disequilibrium led to subsequent thrombus progression, venous congestion, and occlusion of the vein with venous dilation and signs of stasis on follow-up magnetic resonance imaging. Finally, this developed into a lobulated lesion with salt-and-pepper appearance at the converging region of medullary tributaries, which typified the classic features of a cavernoma.

CONCLUSION: Compared with other published cases of de novo cavernoma formation in relation to a DVA, our case, for the first time, allows us to witness the temporal evolution from a thrombosed DVA to the birth of a cavernoma around it. This supports the hypothesis that the cavernoma can be an acquired disease that arises from a DVA.

High-Definition Fiber Tractography of the Human Brain: Neuroanatomical Validation and Neurosurgical Applications

Neurosurgery 71:430–453, 2012

High-definition fiber tracking (HDFT) is a novel combination of processing, reconstruction, and tractography methods that can track white matter fibers from cortex, through complex fiber crossings, to cortical and subcortical targets with subvoxel resolution.

OBJECTIVE: To perform neuroanatomical validation of HDFT and to investigate its neurosurgical applications.

METHODS: Six neurologically healthy adults and 36 patients with brain lesions were studied. Diffusion spectrum imaging data were reconstructed with a Generalized Q-Ball Imaging approach. Fiber dissection studies were performed in 20 human brains, and selected dissection results were compared with tractography.

RESULTS: HDFT provides accurate replication of known neuroanatomical features such as the gyral and sulcal folding patterns, the characteristic shape of the claustrum, the segmentation of the thalamic nuclei, the decussation of the superior cerebellar peduncle, the multiple fiber crossing at the centrum semiovale, the complex angulation of the optic radiations, the terminal arborization of the arcuate tract, and the cortical segmentation of the dorsal Broca area. From a clinical perspective, we show that HDFT provides accurate structural connectivity studies in patients with intracerebral lesions, allowing qualitative and quantitative white matter damage assessment, aiding in understanding lesional patterns of white matter structural injury, and facilitating innovative neurosurgical applications. High-grade gliomas produce significant disruption of fibers, and low-grade gliomas cause fiber displacement. Cavernomas cause both displacement and disruption of fibers.

CONCLUSION: Our HDFT approach provides an accurate reconstruction of white matter fiber tracts with unprecedented detail in both the normal and pathological human brain. Further studies to validate the clinical findings are needed.

Long-term visual outcome after microsurgical removal of occipital lobe cavernomas

J Neurosurg 117:295–301, 2012

Cavernomas in the occipital lobe are relatively rare. Because of the proximity to the visual cortex and incoming subcortical tracts, microsurgical removal of occipital cavernomas may be associated with a risk of visual field defects. The goal of the study was to analyze long-term outcome after operative treatment of occipital cavernomas with special emphasis on visual outcome.

Methods. Of the 390 consecutive patients with cavernomas who were treated at Helsinki University Central Hospital between 1980 and 2011, 19 (5%) had occipital cavernomas. Sixteen patients (4%) were surgically treated and are included in this study. The median age was 39 years (range 3–59 years). Seven patients (56%) suffered from hemorrhage preoperatively, 5 (31%) presented with visual field deficits, 11 (69%) suffered from seizures, and 4 (25%) had multiple cavernomas. Surgery was indicated for progressive neurological deterioration. The median follow-up after surgery was 5.25 years (range 0.5–14 years).

Results. All patients underwent thorough neuroophthalmological assessment to determine visual outcome after surgery. Visual fields were classified as normal, mild homonymous visual field loss (not disturbing the patient, driving allowed), moderate homonymous visual field loss (disturbing the patient, driving prohibited), and severe visual field loss (total homonymous hemianopia or total homonymous quadrantanopia). At the last follow-up, 4 patients (25%) had normal visual fields, 6 (38%) had a mild visual field deficit, 1 (6%) complained of moderate visual field impairment, and 5 (31%) had severe homonymous visual field loss. Cavernomas seated deeper than 2 cm from the pial surface carried a 4.4-fold risk of postoperative visual field deficit relative to superficial ones (p = 0.034). Six (55%) of the 11 patients presenting with seizures were seizure-free postoperatively. Eleven (69%) of 16 patients had no disability during the long-term follow-up.

Conclusions. Surgical removal of occipital cavernomas may carry a significant risk of postoperative visual field deficit, and the risk is even higher for deeper lesions. Seizure outcome after removal of these cavernomas appeared to be worse than that after removal in other supratentorial locations. This should be taken into account during preoperative planning.