Intracranial Dural Arteriovenous Fistulas With Brainstem Engorgement: An Under-Recognized Entity in Diagnosis and Treatment

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Background: In rare circumstances, patients with intracranial (dural arteriovenous fistulas) DAVFs could be complicated with brainstem engorgement, which might lead to delayed or false diagnosis and subsequent improper management.

Methods: On July 2th, 2019, a systematic search was conducted in the PubMed database for patients with intracranial DAVFs complicated with brainstem engorgement.

Results: Sixty-eight articles reporting of 86 patients were included for final analysis. The patients were aged from 20 to 76 years (57.10 ± 12.90, n = 82). The female to male ratio was 0.68 (35:51). Thirty-three (40.2%, 33/82) patients were initially misdiagnosed as other diseases. The specific location distributions were cranio-cervical junction, cavernous sinus, superior petrosal sinus, transverse and/or sigmoid sinus, tentorium, and other sites in 27 (32.5%), 11 (13.2%), 9 (10.8%), 10 (12.0%), 21 (25.3%), and 5 (6.0%) patients, respectively. The Cognard classification of DAVFs were II, III, IV, and V in 9 (10.7%, 9/84), 1 (1.2%, 1/84), 1 (1.2%, 1/84), and 73 (86.9%, 73/84) patients. Eighteen (22%, 18/82) patients were demonstrated to have stenosis or occlusion of the draining system distal to the fistula points. The mean follow-up period was 7.86 (n = 74, range 0–60 months) months. Fifty-four (70.1%, 54/77) patients experienced a good recovery according to the mRS score.

Conclusions: Intracranial DAVFs complicated with brainstem engorgement are rare entities. Initial misdiagnosis and delayed definite diagnosis are common in the past three decades. The treatment outcome is still unsatisfactory at present. Early awareness of this rare entity and efficiently utilizing the up to date investigations are of utmost importance.

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