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Cerebral Cavernous Malformation (Cavernous Angioma, Cavernous Hemangioma)​

What is a Cerebral Cavernous Malformation?

A cerebral cavernous malformation (also known as cavernous angioma, cavernous hemangioma) is an abnormal group of small blood vessels that may be found in the brain and spinal cord. These lesions can be quiet for many years; however, they can manifest themselves by bleeding.

Cerebral cavernous malformations may cause serious neurological symptoms — even death — as a result of severe bleeding or pressure on the brain or nerves.

Common symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Paralysis
  • Cerebral hemorrhage

Seizures may be controlled with anti-epileptic drugs.

Treatment options vary for cavernous malformations. Surgery may be necessary to remove a cerebral cavernous malformation that is causing symptoms or that suffered multiple bleedings.

Diagnosing a Cerebral Cavernous Malformation

Tests for diagnosing a cerebral cavernous malformation

Cerebral cavernous malformations can be diagnosed by imaging studies such as CT and MRI scans.

Symptoms of cerebral cavernous malformations

Your physician also will ask you about your symptoms, which may include:

  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Paralysis
  • Hearing or vision changes
  • Cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)

Cerebral Cavernous Malformation Treatments

Anti-epileptic drugs are typically given to control seizures. However, surgery may be required to remove the cavernous malformation if it is causing recurrent bleeding or other dangerous symptoms.

Surgery for cerebral cavernous malformations

At UPMC, resection of a cavernous malformation is performed using intraoperative guidance such as:

  • MRI
  • High Definition Fiber Tracking (HDFT)
  • MEG

Gamma Knife® radiosurgery

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a painless treatment that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target tumors and lesions within the brain, with no surgical incision.

The Gamma Knife may be indicated for deep-seated cavernous malformations that repeatedly bleed and are not easily accessible for microsurgical removal. The goal is to reduce the risk of additional bleeding events while maintaining existing neurological function.

As the nation's leading provider of Gamma Knife procedures, UPMC has treated more than 12,000 patients with tumors, vascular malformations, pain, and other functional problems.