Learn more about the Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventions Center.
A cavernous malformation (CM), also called a cavernoma, is a small, berry-like mass that consists of an abnormally expanded, thin-walled blood vessel. CMs are among the more common cerebrovascular problems in children.
While many people with CMs never notice any ill effects, CMs can cause neurologic symptoms and can sometimes be life-threatening.
Most CMs are diagnosed after they have become symptomatic, by causing bleeding (hemorrhage) in the brain. The hemorrhage can be small and intermittent (subacute) or it can be large and rapid, causing a sudden onset of symptoms. Symptoms will vary depending on the CM’s location, but may include:
- sensory changes in an arm or leg
- changes in personality
In most cases, symptoms gradually lessen as the blood becomes resorbed. In some cases, where the hemorrhage is large and exerts significant pressure on the brain, the child will have a faster recovery and a better outcome if the CM is surgically removed.
If you have been diagnosed with a "cavernous malformation" outside of the brain, see the information on Venous Malformations.
How we care for Cavernous Malformations at Boston Children’s Hospital
In deciding how to treat CMs, we carefully evaluate each child with noninvasive head and neck imaging. If the CMs are not causing symptoms, many children do fine with a “wait-and-see” approach. If a CM has begun to bleed, we are more likely to recommend surgery if it is clearly the cause of the child’s symptoms. Surgery is the option of choice if there is a single CM in an accessible part of the brain that can be operated on safely. While some centers use stereotactic radiosurgery, we use it only as a last resort. After treatment, we follow each child every six months or annually with magnetic resonance imaging.
In addition to treating the CM itself, Boston Children’s Hospital addresses any neurological symptoms it may have caused and provides close support to help children and families cope with any resulting disability.