Dural arteriovenous fistulas and headache features: an observational study

Ilenia Corbelli, Francesca De Maria, Paolo Eusebi, Michele Romoli, Gabriela Cardaioli, Mohammed Hamam, Piero Floridi, Letizia Maria Cupini, Paola Sarchielli, Paolo Calabresi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: Dural arteriovenous fistulas are intracranial vascular malformations, fed by dural arteries and draining venous sinuses or meningeal veins. Clinical course varies widely and ranges from benign with spontaneous remission to fatal, due to cerebral hemorrhage. In a 10-year single institution experience, clinical presentation of dural arteriovenous fistulas, and in particular headache and angiographic features, as well as long-term outcome were analyzed. METHODS: Data of 42 intracranial dural arteriovenous fistulas of 40 patients concerning demographic characteristics, medical history and risk factors, clinical presentation and headache features, location and neuroimaging findings, as well as treatment and outcome, were collected. Furthermore, we used the modified-Rankin Scale to assess the long-term outcome, by telephone contact with patients and/or their relatives. RESULTS: Patients aged between 25 and 89 years (mean age 55.8 ± 15.5). According to different clinical presentation and evolution, related to their unique drainage pattern into the cavernous sinus, we examined the carotid-cavernous fistulas separately from other dural arteriovenous fistulas. Interestingly, we found that the migraine-like headache was the major onset symptom of dural arteriovenous fistulas different from carotid-cavernous fistulas (p = 0.036). On the other hand, non-migraine-like headache was a typical characteristic of carotid-cavernous fistulas (p = 0.003). Moreover, ocular symptoms were more frequently observed in carotid-cavernous fistulas (92.9% p < 0.001). Seventy percent of patients did not report any impact on quality of life (mRS 0 or 1) at follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest a link between the site of lesion and clinical features of the headache, a symptom that usually leads to hospitalization. In particular, ocular symptoms accompanying non-migraine-like headache should be promptly recognized and raise the suspicion of a carotid-cavernous fistula, while migraine-like headache may suggests other dural arteriovenous fistulas. This study provides new significant insights on headache and its characteristics as a presentation symptom in dural arteriovenous fistulas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-N/A
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Angiography
  • Cerebrovascular malformations
  • Imaging
  • Secondary headache disorders


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