Cavernous Malformations

1 What are Cavernous Malformations?

Cavernous malformations, also called cavernoma or cavernous angioma, are clumps of abnormally dilated blood vessels that are most commonly found in the brain and spinal cord.

The blood vessels are non-cancerous, however they may alter blood flow or cause leakage of blood from the affected vessel and may even lead to bleeding in the brain.

The symptoms may vary among individuals. In some people, it may produce no associated symptoms while in some people, it can cause multiple vascular lesions.

The condition may be inherited or may occur due to other external factors. Bleeding in the brain can cause neurological symptoms like seizures, headaches and problems with memory, balance, vision.

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2 Symptoms

You may not experience any symptoms even if you have cavernous malformations while some people may experience symptoms like:

  • Seizures
  • Weakness in arms or legs
  • Vision problems
  • Balance problems
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Severe headache
  • Numbness
  • Speech problems

These neurological symptoms may vary according to location of the malformations in the brain or spinal cord. It is common for symptoms to appear and subside as cavernous malformation changes in size due to bleeding and reabsorption of blood.

3 Causes

It’s not clear what causes cavernous malformations.

However, genetic mutations are identified as the probable causes for some cases, like in familial cavernous malformation. This condition can be inherited from a parent.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of Cavernous malformations is done by physical examination to determine the presence of neurological deficits caused due to the dilated blood vessels in the brain.

In addition, your doctor can recommend following tests to investigate bleeding in the brain that has recently occurred or appearance of new vascular lesions.

Remember that angiograms are ineffective in diagnosing this condition.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the best diagnostic test for cavernous malformations. You may be recommended to repeat MRI scans to identify and analyze if the cavernous malformation has changed in size or a new lesion has appeared.

5 Treatment

There are various treatment approaches for managing the symptoms of cavernous malformations.

Some of the treatments available are:

  • Medication: Medications are recommended to control seizure and mitigate associated pains like back pain and headache.
  • Surgery: The lesion can be surgically removed if seizures are not controlled by anti-seizure medications. Surgery may also be considered if the lesion is accessible and carries a low surgical risks.The decision for surgery is taken by your doctor after weighing the risks and benefits of a surgical procedure.

6 Risks and Complications

The main risk factor of Cavernous malformations is Family history.

Study suggests that if a parent has familial cavernous angioma, his or her child may have a 50 percent chance of developing this condition.