Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformations in Children
¶ In spite of their congenital origin, only 18–20% of cerebral AVMs are diagnosed during infancy and childhood. Intracranial haemorrhage is the presenting clinical manifestation in 75–80% of paediatric patients and is associated with a high morbidity and mortality. The natural history of untreated cerebral AVMs in children is worse than in adults, in relation to a longer life expectation, a higher annual risk of AVM bleeding (3.2% vs. 2.2%) and a higher incidence of posterior fossa and basal ganglia AVMs, most of which present with massive haemorrhages. The surgical excision remains the treatment of choice for parenchymal AVMs in children; AVM complete removal is currently achieved in 70–90% of the patients. With the advent of new agents for endovascular management, preoperative AVM embolization has further improved surgical results. Stereotactic radiosurgery appears to be a successful treatment option in small or moderate sized AVMs. Recent studies have demonstrated low complication rates with this technique in paediatric patients.
We reviewed our experience with 37 paediatric AVMs treated at the Section of Paediatric Neurosurgery of the Catholic University of Rome between 1980 and 1997. Twenty-three patients underwent surgery as the only treatment modality; endovascular embolization was combined with the surgical treatment in a further four cases. Radiosurgery was utilized as the only treatment in three patients and in combination with other techniques in an other three children (with surgery in one case and with AVM embolization in the remaining two subjects). No treatment was carried out in three patients because of excessively critical condition on admission; endovascular embolization failed in a further patient because of the anatomical complexity of the malformation. Previous studies have demonstrated a quite strict correlation between AVM complexity based on Spetzler and Martin's grading system and patients outcome. A less direct relationship has been observed in the present study. In our experience the factors which were more closely predictive of patients' outcome were the occurrence of an AVM bleeding and the neurological status on admission. In spite of the low number of cases in the single subsets of patients this study seems to support the role of AVM embolization and radiosurgery as effective adjuvant techniques in the management of cerebral AVMs in children.
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