Unruptured intracranial aneurysms and brain arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) may be detected as incidental findings on cranial imaging. This article provides a practical approach to the management of unruptured intracranial aneurysms and unruptured brain AVMs and reviews the risk of rupture, risk factors for rupture, preventive treatment options with their associated risks, and the approach of treatment versus observation for both types of vascular malformations.
For unruptured intracranial aneurysms, scoring systems on the risk of rupture can help with choosing preventive treatment or observation with follow-up imaging. Although the literature provides detailed information on the complication risks of preventive treatment of unruptured intracranial aneurysms, individualized predictions of these procedural complication risks are not yet available. With observation with imaging, growth of unruptured intracranial aneurysms can be monitored, and prediction scores for growth can help determine the optimal timing of monitoring. The past years have revealed more about the risk of complications of the different treatment modalities for brain AVMs. A randomized clinical trial and prospective follow-up data have shown that preventive interventional therapy in patients with brain AVMs is associated with a higher rate of neurologic morbidity and mortality compared with observation.
The risk of hemorrhage from both unruptured intracranial aneurysms and brain AVMs varies depending on the number of risk factors associated with hemorrhage. For both types of vascular malformations, different preventive treatment options are available, and all carry risks of complications. For unruptured intracranial aneurysms, the consideration of preventive treatment versus observation is complex, and several factors should be included in the decision making. Overall, it is recommended that patients with unruptured asymptomatic brain AVMs should be observed.