Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs), also known as cerebral cavernous angiomas, are collections of small blood vessels in the brain that become enlarged and irregular in shape. The vessels are filled with slow-moving blood that is often clotted. Cavernous malformations can occur in the brain, spinal cord or other areas of the body.
Most CCMs occur as a single formation, or lesion, with no specific cause. This sporadic form may be present at birth or may develop later in life. CCMs are hereditary in approximately 25% of those diagnosed. This type is often associated with multiple blood vessel formations. A diagnosis of the inherited form of CCM can be confirmed by genetic testing.
One in 500 individuals have at least one CCM in their brain, with approximately 25% experiencing no symptoms. Others, however, may experience:
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of sensation
- Hearing or vision deficiencies
- Difficulty speaking
CCMs are prone to bleeding, which can lead to hemorrhagic strokes or seizures. Severe cases of bleeding are unusual but can be life threatening.
Diagnosis and Treatment
CCMs are typically diagnosed via MRI when an individual becomes symptomatic. For most patients, MRIs are ordered when there are changes in symptoms. For some patients with high risk lesions, regular MRIs are recommended to assess changes in size, recent bleeding or the appearance of new lesions. Medications are currently under development to strengthen blood vessels and stop the formation of additional CCMs.
Patients with an increase in the size and number of lesions, or with an acute brain hemorrhage, may require surgery.
CCM Treatment at Michigan Medicine
Michigan Medicine’s neurovascular team specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide spectrum of cerebrovascular disorders. As one of only a few places in the country that offers comprehensive expertise treating the most complex cerebrovascular disorders with advanced microsurgery, radiosurgery, and minimally invasive endovascular treatment options, Michigan Medicine is leading the way in patient safety, patient satisfaction and quality outcomes.