There have been significant advances in understanding the angioarchitecture of spinal dural arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs). However, the major intradural retrograde venous drainage system has not been investigated in detail, including the most proximal sites of intradural radiculomedullary veins as they connect to the dura mater, which are the final targets of interruption in both microsurgical and endovascular treatments.
Between April 1984 and March 2011, 27 patients with 28 AVFs were treated for spinal dural AVFs at the authors' university hospital. The authors assessed vertebral levels of feeding arteries and dural AVFs by using conventional digital subtraction angiography. They also assessed 3D locations of the most proximal sites of intradural radiculomedullary veins and the 3D positional relationship between the major intradural retrograde venous drainage system and intradural neural structures, including the spinal cord, spinal nerves, and the artery of Adamkiewicz, by using operative video recordings plus 3D rotational angiography and/or 3D computer graphics. In addition, they statistically assessed the clinical results of 27 cases. Of these lesions, 23 were treated with open microsurgery and the rest were treated with endovascular methods.
Feeding arteries consisted of T2-10 intercostal arteries with 19 lesions, T-12 subcostal arteries with 3 lesions, and L1-3 lumbar arteries with 6 lesions. The 3D locations of the targets of interruption (the most proximal sites of intradural radiculomedullary veins as they connect to the dura mater) were identified at the dorsolateral portion of the dura mater adjacent to dorsal roots in all 19 thoracic lesions, whereas they were identified at the ventrolateral portion of the dura mater adjacent to ventral roots in 7 (78%) of 9 cases of conus medullaris/lumbar lesions (p < 0.001). The major intradural retrograde venous drainage system was located dorsal to the spinal cord in all 19 thoracic lesions, whereas it was located ventral to the spinal cord in 4 (44%) of 9 cases of conus/lumbar lesions (p = 0.006). In 3 (11%) of 27 cases, AVFs had a common origin of the artery of Adamkiewicz. In 2 lumbar lesions, the artery of Adamkiewicz ascended very close to the vein because of its ventral location. Although all lesions were successfully obliterated without major complications and both gait and micturition status significantly improved (p = 0.005 and p = 0.015, respectively), conus/lumbar lesions needed careful differential diagnosis from ventral intradural perimedullary AVFs, because the ventral location of these lesions contradicted the Spetzler classification system.
The angioarchitecture of spinal dural AVFs in the thoracic region is strikingly different from that in conus/lumbar regions with regard to the intradural retrograde venous drainage system. One should keep in mind that spinal dural AVFs are not always dorsal types, especially in conus/lumbar regions.