Acta Neurochirurgica

, Volume 159, Issue 6, pp 1087–1092 | Cite as

Sacral epidural arteriovenous fistulas: imitators of spinal dural arteriovenous fistulas with different pathologic anatomy: report of three cases and review of the literature

  • Jan-Karl Burkhardt
  • Michael M. Safaee
  • Aaron J. Clark
  • Michael T. LawtonEmail author
Technical Note - Vascular



Sacral epidural arteriovenous fistulas (eAVFs) are rare and often misdiagnosed because of the incongruence between the thoracic level of clinical deficits and the sacral location of the offending pathology. Failure to diagnose this lesion delays treatment, resulting in prolonged venous hypertension in the cord, progressive neurological deterioration, and decreased chances of recovery.


A single-institution case series and the published literature were reviewed.


Three patients had sacral eAVFs are located in the ventral epidural space with outflow connections to radicular veins that arterialized spinal cord veins, all presenting with thoracic myelopathy, venous engorgement, and delayed diagnosis. All eAVFs were occluded completely with radiographic and clinical improvement.


Sacral eAVF pathophysiology, namely venous hypertension and compromised spinal cord circulation, is exactly the same as dural AVFs, as is their treatment: the interruption of outflow by occlusion of the draining vein, which effectively eliminates venous hypertension, without occlusion of the actual fistula itself. Epidural exposure of sacral eAVFs is not necessary, whereas complete intradural occlusion of their radicular drainage is. Draining radicular veins intermingle with the nerve roots and their occasional multiplicity makes them more difficult to identify intraoperatively.


Spinal dural arteriovenous fistula (dAVF) Sacral epidural arteriovenous fistula (eAVF) Microsurgical clip occlusion Thoracic myelopathy Venous hypertension 


Compliance with ethical standards


No funding was received for this research.

Conflict of interest

All authors certify that they have no affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with any financial interest (such as honoraria; educational grants; participation in speakers’ bureaus; membership, employment, consultancies, stock ownership, or other equity interest; and expert testimony or patent-licensing arrangements), or non-financial interest (such as personal or professional relationships, affiliations, knowledge or beliefs) in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study formal consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan-Karl Burkhardt
    • 1
  • Michael M. Safaee
    • 1
  • Aaron J. Clark
    • 1
  • Michael T. Lawton
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Neurological SurgeryUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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