Cavernous Hemangioma

Carvernous Hemangioma

A cavernous hemangioma is an abnormal cluster of tightly packed, thin-walled capillaries (smallest blood vessels). The thin walls of these capillaries make hemangiomas prone to bleeding. The blood within the capillaries is usually slow-moving or not moving at all.

Cavernous hemangiomas mostly occur in your brain or brainstem, but can sometimes occur in your spine or other areas of your body. Bleeding in your brain can cause seizures or a stroke.

Cavernous hemangiomas are also called cerebral cavernous malformation, cavernoma, occult vascular malformations or cavernous malformations.

Symptoms of Cavernous Hemangioma

The number and severity of symptoms depends on the size, location and number of hemangiomas. Some individuals don’t have any symptoms. Symptoms vary from person to person.

Symptoms include:

  • Seizures. This is the most common first symptom.
  • Blurred vision, double vision, loss of vision.
  • Weakness in your arm or leg.
  • Facial drooping.
  • Unsteady walk.
  • Headaches.
  • Dizziness, tinnitus, hearing loss.
  • Impaired speech.
  • Memory and attention problems.
  • Irritability or changes in personality.

Causes of Cavernous Hemangioma

About 80% of cerebral cavernous hemangioma don’t have an identifiable cause. These are known as sporadic cavernous hemangiomas. Usually only one hemangioma forms.

Researchers have found that another type of abnormal blood vessel, known as a developmental venous anomaly (DVA), increases the chance of developing a cavernous hemangioma. Radiation treatment to the brain or spine is another known cause of cavernous hemangiomas.

About 20% of cavernous hemangiomas have a hereditary link.

Diagnosis of Cavernous Hemangioma

Cavernous malformations are diagnosed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A special type of scan, called susceptibility weighted imaging, is a more sensitive type of MRI. It detects the tiniest cavernous hemangiomas as well as remnants of prior bleeds or swelling around the lesion. 

Treatment of Cavernous Hemangioma

Treatment options depend on the location of the cavernous hemangioma(s) in the brain and if they have bled and are causing uncontrollable symptoms.

If the cavernous hemangioma is not causing symptoms, the neurosurgeon may simply want to watch it with regularly scheduled brain scans. He will prescribe medication to manage symptoms such as headache and seizures.

Surgery to remove your cavernous hemangioma is the main treatment approach if the patient is having symptoms. Surgery is more likely if:

  • You’ve had one or more symptomatic bleeding episodes.
  • The bleeding has caused neurologic problems (like limb weakness or vision problems) and the problems are getting worse.
  • You have seizures that aren’t controlled with medication.
  • Your hemangioma’s location is also considered.

Your neurosurgeon will decide if removing your hemangioma is less disruptive to your brain tissue than the risk of damage from additional bleeds.