High Risk of Bleeding from Brain Blood Vessel Abnormalities during Pregnancy

Released: 8/7/2012 10:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Contact Information

Available for logged-in reporters only

Citations Neurosurgery

Experts Outline Recommended Approach for Pregnant Women with Arteriovenous Malformations

Newswise — Philadelphia, Pa. (August 7, 2012) – A new study supports what neurosurgeons have long suspected—that pregnancy is an important risk factor for bleeding from arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in the brain, reports the August issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

The best available data suggest that pregnant women with AVMs face an eight percent risk of rupture and bleeding during pregnancy—far higher than the risk in non-pregnant women. Based on their findings, Bradley A. Gross, MD, and Rose Du, PhD, of Harvard Medical School outline some recommendations for women with AVMs who want to have children or are already pregnant.

Risk of AVM Bleeding Is Eight Times Higher During Pregnancy
Drs. Gross and Du reviewed the records of 54 women with confirmed AVMs between 2002 and 2010. Arteriovenous malformations are tangled complexes of interconnected arteries and veins that are prone to rupture and bleeding, which can lead to death or serious disability.

The researchers calculated the total risk of bleeding AVMs in terms of the total number of "patient-years" at risk. They then assessed the risk of bleeding events during the total time their patients were pregnant. The 54 patients had a total of 62 pregnancies during follow-up. Four of the women had a total of five bleeding events while pregnant.

Based on the data, the researchers calculated an AVM bleeding risk of 8.1 percent per pregnancy, or 10.8 per year. By contrast, the rate of bleeding while the women were not pregnant was 1.1 percent per year.

Thus the risk of bleeding from an AVM was about eight times higher during pregnancy. On analysis of follow-up data to age 40, the risk of bleeding during pregnancy appeared even greater—18 times higher.

Neurosurgeons have long regarded pregnancy as a risk factor for bleeding AVMs. However, because ruptured AVMs are relatively rare, it is difficult to calculate the true risks.

Within the limitations of the data, the study strongly suggests that the risk of bleeding AVMs is substantially higher during pregnancy. In the authors' four cases, bleeding AVMs caused sudden headache and other symptoms between 22 and 39 weeks of pregnancy. With prompt treatment, all of the women and their infants survived (although one of the mothers was left with permanent disability).

Based on their findings, Drs. Gross and Du recommend treatment for any woman with an AVM who is considering having children—especially if they've previously had an episode of bleeding. If an unruptured AVM is discovered during pregnancy, they recommend "comprehensive patient counseling," discussing the risks of treatment versus "cautious continuation" of pregnancy without treatment.

When it's time for delivery, they recommend cesarean section. While noting that other doctors and hospitals may follow a different approach, Drs. Gross and Du hope their study and recommendations will "incite thought and invoke added caution in women with known, untreated AVMs planning to bear children."

###

About Neurosurgery
Neurosurgery, the Official Journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, is your most complete window to the contemporary field of neurosurgery. Members of the Congress and non-member subscribers receive 3,000 pages per year packed with the very latest science, technology, and medicine, not to mention full-text online access to the world's most complete, up-to-the-minute neurosurgery resource. For professionals aware of the rapid pace of developments in the field, Neurosurgery is nothing short of indispensable.

About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) is a leading international publisher of trusted content delivered in innovative ways to practitioners, professionals and students to learn new skills, stay current on their practice, and make important decisions to improve patient care and clinical outcomes. LWW is part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the healthcare industry. Wolters Kluwer Health is part of Wolters Kluwer, a market-leading global information services company with 2011 annual revenues of €3.4 billion ($4.7 billion).


Comment/Share