Congestive myelopathy due to craniocervical junction arteriovenous fistulas mimicking transverse myelitis: a multicenter study on 27 cases

the Neurospinal Society of Japan CCJAVF Study Investigators

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The purpose was to clarify diagnostic clues and pitfalls in cranio-cervical junction arteriovenous fistulas (CCJ AVFs) with congestive myelopathy. Methods: In a multicenter observational study by the Neurospinal Society of Japan, we described the demographics, clinical courses, imaging findings, and outcomes of consecutive patients with CCJ AVFs presenting with congestive myelopathy between 2009 and 2019. Results: Twenty-seven patients were included (mean age, 70 years; male, 96%). Progressive symptoms within one day to one month were more common (63%) than chronic symptoms. Myelopathic symptoms were characterized by ascending paralysis beginning from the legs, involving the trunk and arms, and sometimes ending in the brainstem. Fifteen patients (56%) received a misdiagnosis, including acute transverse myelitis. The most common MRI findings were venous congestive edema of the cervical cord (96%) and the brainstem (63%) and surrounding vascular flow voids (100%). The mean extension of congestive edema was 5.5 ± 2.9 vertebral segments. The most common angiographic findings were a dural AVF (78%) at the C1 level (81%) with descending venous drainage (85%). Seven patients (26%) were administered steroids, which resulted in neurological decline in 3. Neurosurgical obliteration of the AVF led to improvements in MRI findings in 75% and a functional status in 67%; however, 44% remained dependent. Conclusions: The myelopathy of CCJ AVFs was characterized by acute ascending paralysis in elderly men. A misdiagnosis was common because of the acute presentation due to a longitudinally extensive spinal cord lesion. Dilated vessels on MRI were a key finding for the correct diagnosis. What is already known on this topic? Slowly progressive myelopathy is a well-known symptom that results from impaired spinal venous drainage due to thoracolumbar AVFs. Although cranio-cervical junction arteriovenous fistulas (CCJ AVFs) constitute a treatable cause of congestive myelopathy, detailed information is not currently available due to their rarity. What does this study add? CCJ AVFs often presented with acute ascending myelopathy in elderly men due to a longitudinally extending cervical cord lesion with surrounding flow voids. Steroid pulse therapy was not effective or even harmful to congestive myelopathy, while neurosurgical treatment effectively obliterated AVFs. How might this study affect research, practice or policy? The results obtained revealed diagnostic clues and pitfalls from the largest dataset of patients with CCJ AVFs in a multicenter cohort.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neurology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Arteriovenous fistulas
  • Arteriovenous malformations
  • Arteriovenous shunts
  • Complication
  • Endovascular embolization
  • Outcome
  • Surgery
  • Vascular malformations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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