Neurological Spine Disorders

Cavernous Malformations

Cavernous malformation (CM) (also known as cavernous angioma, cavernous hemangioma and cavernous vascular malformation) is a type of vascular malformation that occurs in the brain and/or spine. These malformations are made up of fragile arteries and veins that tend to leak small amounts of blood and can cause large brain hemorrhages resulting in permanent neurological deficits if untreated.

Most people who have CM are born with them and they can form anywhere in the body. There may be some genetic predisposition in some families for having this type of vascular malformation.


Symptoms may be experienced depending on where the lesions grow and how many of the lesions are present. Most of the time, these formations cause no problems. Many people never know that they have one. In some people, however, the lesions can burst and bleed into the brain, causing stroke and death.


Doctors typically take a medical history and do a physical exam. The final diagnosis is usually made based on imaging tests that show areas of blood flow. These tests could include:

Cavernous malformations can occur anywhere in the brain or spine. They are best diagnosed by MRI scans.

Treatment Options

Treatment for cavernous malformations has dramatically improved in the last decade.New computer guided navigation developed at Stanford allows neurosurgeons to reach even the deepest parts of the brain to removed these lesions with relatively low risk.

Cavernous malformations can occur anywhere in the brain or spine. They are best diagnosed by MRI scans.

The physicians at Stanford have treated several hundred patients with cavernous malformations with excellent long term outcomes.They have developed a special expertise in treating deep-seated cavernous malformations, including those in the brainstem, thalamus and basal ganglia.

Facts about cavernous malformations

About one in 100 to 200 people have cavernous malformations. The malformations probably form before or shortly after birth. Some may come and go.

About five-tenths of a percent of the world population is affected by cerebral cavernous malformations.

About 25 percent of people with cavernous malformations in the brain never have symptoms.

Some experts believe that cavernous malformations run in families. Researchers have found genes that seem to be linked to a risk of these unusual formations. Some cases of cavernous malformations may be genetic, but others appear without a family history.

Stanford Medicine Resources:

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