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Cerebral cavernous malformation

Cerebral cavernous malformation Definition

Cerebral cavernous malformation, sometimes known as cavernous angioma, is a disease that affects the central nervous system. The disease may occur sporadically or may be inherited. When one has the disease, there are groups of abnormal blood vessels located in the brain and spinal cord, although in rare cases they are also located in other parts of the body. A cerebral cavernous malformation resembles a raspberry, although it varies in size. The small bubbles are filled with blood, and a special layer of cells called endothelium lines the bubbles.

Cerebral cavernous malformation Diagnosis

Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is the most common form of diagnosing cerebral cavernous malformation, but a gradient-echo sequence is also needed in order to determine any lesions that the MRI may not detect. Many times, MRI's ordered by patients for other reasons can accidentally detect the lesions. These lesions can also be inconclusive, but finding it will result in more tests such as a magnetic resonance angiogram or cerebral angiogram.

Cerebral cavernous malformation Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms of cerebral cavernous malformation are chronic headaches, neurological defects such as vision problems, weaknesses in the arms and legs, balance problems, and memory problems. In some cases, patients who have the condition may have no symptoms at all. Cerebral cavernous malformation can also cause seizures, although if the person has more than one cavernous angioma, it may be difficult to tell which one may be causing the seizures. Symptoms also depend on the strength of the angioma walls, and on its location. The cavernous angioma may change in size and will bleed and reabsorb blood, causing changes in symptoms as well. Diagnosis of cerebral cavernous malformation is important because the hemorrhages it can cause may be fatal.

Cerebral cavernous malformation Treatment

Treatment is available for the headaches and seizures caused by cerebral cavernous malformations. However, for cases wherein recent hemorrhage has occurred or whose angiomas are changing in size or causing seizures, surgery is the most effective and preferred form of treatment. A procedure called craniotomy, or opening of the skull, is performed during surgery to remove the cerebral cavernous malformation. Most of the time, patients are given general anesthesia, although some cases would need brain mapping, and this requires the patient to be awake. Technology has made surgery for the condition much easier and safer, with the invention of microsurgery and frameless stererotaxy, which operate with a minimal brain or spinal cord disruption as possible.

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