Cavernous Malformation

A cavernous malformation, also known as a cavernous angioma or cavernoma, is an abnormal collection of blood vessels that may occur within the brain or spinal cord. Cavernous malformations may occur anywhere in the body, but usually only produce symptoms when they are found in the brain and spinal cord. Some people with cavernous malformation may not experience any symptoms at all, while others may have serious symptoms such as severe bleeding in the brain, which can be life threatening. The exact cause of a cavernous malformation is unknown, however, in some cases, it may be a result of an inherited condition cause by a gene mutation.

Symptoms of Cavernous Malformation

Many patients with a cavernous malformation never experience any symptoms or complications from this condition, and may never even know that they have it. Others may experience serious symptoms such as:

  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Paralysis
  • Hearing and vision changes
  • Weakness or numbness in the face, arms or legs
  • Unsteadiness

Bleeding within the brain, also known as cerebral hemorrhage, may also occur as a result of a cavernous malformation.

Diagnosis of Cavernous Malformation

To diagnose a cavernous malformation, symptoms will be reviewed and a physical examination is performed. An MRI or CAT scan of the brain may also be administered. These diagnostic tests are often performed to evaluate unrelated symptoms, and blood vessel abnormalities may be discovered, without being previously suspected. Genetic testing may also be performed to diagnose the inherited form of cavernous malformation.

Treatment of Cavernous Malformation

Treatment for cavernous malformation focuses on relieving symptoms and reducing the risk of complications if hemorrhaging has occurred. Anti-epileptic medication may be prescribed to control seizures. In severe cases, microsurgical techniques may be used to remove the lesions. Patients who do not experience any symptoms, may only be monitored with a yearly MRI, to make sure the condition does not worsen.

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