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Long-term treatment outcomes and natural course of low-grade intracranial dural arteriovenous fistulas.

OBJECTIVE: In contrast to high-grade dural arteriovenous fistula (dAVF), low-grade dAVF is mainly associated with tinnitus and carries a low risk of morbidity and mortality. It remains unclear whether the benefits of active interventions outweigh the associated risk of complications in low-grade dAVF.

METHODS: The authors conducted a retrospective single-center study that included all consecutive patients diagnosed with an intracranial low-grade dAVF (Cognard type I and IIa) during 2012-2022 with DSA. The authors analyzed symptom relief, symptomatic angiographic cure, treatment-related complications, risk for intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), and mortality. All patients were followed up until the end of 2022.

RESULTS: A total of 81 patients were diagnosed with a low-grade dAVF. Of these, 48 patients (59%) underwent treatment (all primary endovascular treatments), and 33 patients (41%) did not undergo treatment. Nine patients (19%) underwent retreatments. Angiographic follow-up was performed after median (IQR) 7.7 (6.1-24.1) months by means of DSA (mean 15.0, median 6.4 months, range 4.5-83.4 months) or MRA (mean 29.3, median 24.7 months, range 5.9-62.1 months). Symptom control was achieved in 98% of treated patients after final treatment. On final angiographic follow-up, 73% of patients had a completely occluded dAVF. There were 2 treatment-related complications resulting in 1 transient (2%) and 1 permanent (2%) neurological complication. One patient showed recurrence and progression of a completely occluded low-grade dAVF to an asymptomatic high-grade dAVF. No cases of ICH- or dAVF-related mortality were found in either treated patients (median [IQR] follow-up 5.1 [2.0-6.8] years) or untreated patients (median [IQR] follow-up 5.7 [3.2-9.0] years).

CONCLUSIONS: Treatment of low-grade dAVF provides a high rate of symptom relief with small risks for complications with neurological sequela. The risks of ICH and mortality in patients with untreated low-grade dAVF are minimal. Symptoms may not reveal high-grade recurrence, and radiological follow-up may be warranted in selected patients with treated low-grade dAVF. An optimal radiographic follow-up regimen should be developed by a future prospective multicenter registry.

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