Preoperative Embolization for Brain Arteriovenous Malformation

Preoperative Embolization for Brain Arteriovenous Malformation

Preoperative embolization has traditionally been regarded as a safe and effective adjunct to cerebral arteriovenous malformation surgery. However, there is currently no high-level evidence to ascertain this presumption.

Sattari et al. from the Department of Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Tehran School of Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Science, Tehran, Iran. compared the outcomes of microsurgery (MS) vs microsurgery with preoperative embolization (E + MS) in patients with cerebral arteriovenous malformation through a systematic review.

They searched MEDLINEPubMed, and Embase. The primary outcome was cerebral arteriovenous malformation obliterationSecondary outcomes were intraoperative bleeding (mL), complications, worsened modified Rankin Scale (mRS), and mortality. The pooled proportions of outcomes were calculated through the logit transformation method. The odds ratio (OR) of categorical data and the mean difference of continuous data were estimated through the Mantel-Haenszel and the inverse variance methods, respectively.

Thirty-two studies met the eligibility criteria. One thousand eight hundred twenty-eight patients were treated by microsurgery alone, and 1088 were treated by microsurgery with preoperative embolization, respectively. The meta-analysis revealed no significant difference in AVM obliteration (94.1% vs 95.6%, OR = 1.15 [0.63-2.11], P = .65), mortality (1.7% vs 2%, OR = 0.88 [0.30-2.58], P = .82), procedural complications (18.2% vs 27.2%, OR = 0.47 [0.19-1.17], P = .10), worsened mRS (21.2% vs 18.5%, OR = 1.08 [0.33-3.54], P = .9), and intraoperative blood loss (mean difference = 182.89 [-87.76, 453.55], P = .19).

The meta-analysis showed no significant difference in AVM obliteration, mortality, complications, worse mRS, and intraoperative blood loss between MS and E + MS groups. For AVMs where MS alone has acceptable results, it is reasonable to bypass unnecessary preoperative embolization given the higher postoperative complication risk 1).


In a meta-analysis, preoperative embolization appears to have substantially reduced the lesional volume with active AV shunting before AVM resection. Anecdotally, preoperative embolization facilitates safe and efficient resection; however, differences in outcomes were not significant. The decision to pursue preoperative embolization remains a nuanced decision based on individual lesion anatomy and treatment team experience 2).


Brosnan et al. performed a systematic review of randomized trials and cohort studies evaluating preoperative embolization of bAVMs published between 01 January 2000 and 31 March 2021 and appraise its role in clinical practice. A MEDLINE search was performed, and articles reporting on outcomes following preoperative embolization, as an adjunct to microsurgery, were eligible for inclusion. PRISMA reporting and Cochrane Handbook guidelines were followed. The primary outcome measure was the risk of complications associated with preoperative embolization. The study was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42021244231). Of the 1661 citations, 8 studies with 588 patients met predefined inclusion criteria. No studies specifically compared outcomes of surgical excision of bAVMs between those with and without preoperative embolization. Spetzler Martin (SM) grading was available in 301 cases. 123 of 298 (41⋅28%) patients presented with hemorrhage. Complications related to embolization occurred in 175/588 patients (29.4%, 95% CI 19.6-40.2). Permanent neurological deficits occurred in 36/541 (6%, 95% CI 3.9-8.5) and mortality in 6/588 (0.41%, 95% CI 0-1.4). This is the first systematic review evaluating the preoperative embolization of bAVMs. Existing studies assessing this intervention are of poor quality. Associated complication rates are significant. Based on published literature, there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend the preoperative embolization of AVMs. Further studies are required to ascertain if there are benefits of this procedure and if so, in which cases 3).

A study included patients with brain AVM who underwent embolization at our hospital between April 2011 and May 2021. Risk factors for peri- and postoperative complications were analyzed.

During the study period, 36 AVMs were treated during 58 embolization sessions. The goal of the embolization was preoperative in 24 (67%), pre-radiosurgical in 9 (25%), and palliative in 3 (8%) cases. The overall complication rate was 43% (25 of 58) per session and 36% (13 of 36) per patient. Ischemic and hemorrhagic complications were observed in 14 (24%) and 14 (24%) cases, respectively. n-Butyl cyanoacrylate (n-BCA) embolization was detected as the significant risk for postoperative hemorrhage in the univariate (79% vs. 36%, P = 0.012; Fisher exact test) and the multivariable analysis (odds ratio 4.90, 95% confidence interval 1.08-22.2, P = 0.039). The number of embolized feeder in a single session also tended to be higher in a hemorrhagic complication group (median 3.5 vs. 2.0, P = 0.11; Mann-Whitney U-test).

The risk of embolization in multimodality treatment for complex brain AVM was substantial. n-BCA embolization may carry a higher risk of postoperative hemorrhage. An accumulation of cases is awaited to investigate the effectiveness of minimal target embolization in the future 4).


A total of 11 patients who underwent 12 preoperative SPE procedures were included for analysis. Five AVMs were ruptured (45%), and the median nidus volume was 3.0 cm3 (range: 1.3-42.9 cm3). The Spetzler-Martin grade was I-II in seven patients (64%) and III-IV in four patients (36%). The degree of nidal obliteration was less than 25% in two procedures (17%), 25-50% in one procedure (8%), 50-75% in eight procedures (67%), and greater than 75% in one procedure (8%). The rates of post-embolization AVM hemorrhage and mortality were 8% and 0%, respectively. The postoperative angiographic obliteration rate was 100%, and the modified Rankin Scale score improved or stable in 91% of patients (median follow-up duration 2 months).

Preoperative AVM SPE affords a reasonable risk-to-benefit profile for appropriately selected patients 5)


Embolization of intracranial arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) is generally a preoperative adjunctive procedure in the USA.

Preoperative embolization may also be a contributing factor with the potential for recurrence of unresected but embolized portions of an AVM. Follow-up angiography at 1 to 3 years appears to be warranted 6).


A total of 107 patients were treated for cAVMs during the study period. Of those patients, 41 underwent cAVM embolizations with Onyx in 82 procedures.

Results: After the embolization, the cAVM diameter was reduced from 3.71 +/- 1.55 cm to 3.06 +/- 1.89 cm (P < .05). Median volume reduction was 75%. Complete occlusion with embolization alone was achieved in 4 (10%) cAVMs. The recurrence rate for completely occluded cAVMs was 50% (2 patients). A total of 71% of the 41 patients treated with Onyx underwent surgery, and 15% underwent radiosurgery. There were 9% who have not yet received definitive treatment of their residual cAVMs. A new permanent neurologic deficit occurred in 5 patients (6.1% per procedure or 12.2% per patient).

A considerable risk for a permanent neurologic deficit remains for cAVM embolization with Onyx. The risk has to be carefully weighted against the benefit of volume reduction in the treatment of cAVMs 7).


1)

Sattari SA, Shahbandi A, Yang W, Feghali J, Xu R, Huang J. Microsurgery versus Microsurgery With Preoperative Embolization for Brain Arteriovenous Malformation Treatment: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Neurosurgery. 2023 Jan 1;92(1):27-41. doi: 10.1227/neu.0000000000002171. Epub 2022 Oct 26. PMID: 36519858.
2)

Park MT, Essibayi MA, Srinivasan VM, Catapano JS, Graffeo CS, Lawton MT. Surgical management outcomes of intracranial arteriovenous malformations after preoperative embolization: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurosurg Rev. 2022 Dec;45(6):3499-3510. doi: 10.1007/s10143-022-01860-x. Epub 2022 Sep 27. PMID: 36168072.
3)

Brosnan C, Amoo M, Javadpour M. Preoperative embolisation of brain arteriovenous malformations: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurosurg Rev. 2022 Jun;45(3):2051-2063. doi: 10.1007/s10143-022-01766-8. Epub 2022 Mar 9. PMID: 35260972; PMCID: PMC9160113.
4)

Koizumi S, Shojima M, Shinya Y, Ishikawa O, Hasegawa H, Miyawaki S, Nakatomi H, Saito N. Risk Factors of Brain Arteriovenous Malformation Embolization as Adjunctive Therapy: Single-Center 10-Year Experience. World Neurosurg. 2022 Sep 18:S1878-8750(22)01346-8. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2022.09.069. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36130658.
5)

Conger JR, Ding D, Raper DM, Starke RM, Durst CR, Liu KC, Jensen ME, Evans AJ. Preoperative Embolization of Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformations with Silk Suture and Particles: Technical Considerations and Outcomes. J Cerebrovasc Endovasc Neurosurg. 2016 Jun;18(2):90-99. doi: 10.7461/jcen.2016.18.2.90. Epub 2016 Jun 30. PMID: 27790398; PMCID: PMC5081503.
6)

Ivanov AA, Alaraj A, Charbel FT, Aletich V, Amin-Hanjani S. Recurrence of Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformations Following Resection in Adults: Does Preoperative Embolization Increases the Risk? Neurosurgery. 2016 Apr;78(4):562-71. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0000000000001191. PubMed PMID: 26702837.
7)

Hauck EF, Welch BG, White JA, Purdy PD, Pride LG, Samson D. Preoperative embolization of cerebral arteriovenous malformations with onyx. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2009 Mar;30(3):492-5. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A1376. Epub 2008 Dec 26. PMID: 19112062; PMCID: PMC7051448.

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