What Is A Cavernoma And How Can It Be Managed And Treated?

A cavernoma is a cluster of abnormal blood vessels, and in most cases, it has a similar appearance to a raspberry. They can be found in the brain or more rarely the spinal cord and can be very small or measure several centimetres. Here is some further information about the condition and its treatments. 

According to the NHS, cavernomas are sometimes also known as cavernous angiomas, cavernous haemangiomas, or cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM).They are sometimes confused with a brain tumour, but this is not accurate, as it is a group of blood vessels. They are non-cancerous and do not spread to other areas of the body.

However, cavernomas can grow in size which may lead it to press on other parts of the brain and this can cause complications. There is also a risk of bleeding, which may be mild or severe depending on the individual. Once one bleed (or haemorrhage) has occurred, this increases the likelihood of another one.  Multiple or single cavernomas may be present.

Symptoms of cavernoma

Symptoms may vary from person to person, and they can depend on the size and location of the cavernoma. Sometimes they do not cause any symptoms at all. The most common symptoms include haemorrhage, seizures, dizziness, slurred speech, vision disturbances, fatigue, headaches, and problems with memory and concentration.

Causes of cavernoma

There is thought to be a genetic link in around half of all cavernoma cases, but according to the NHS, the condition can also occur randomly. Genetic testing is available to determine whether the condition has been passed on through a parent to a child. 

There may be an increased risk of cavernoma if a person has previously had radiotherapy or some other form of radiation exposure. 

Cavernoma Alliance UK, a charity that supports patients and their families and campaigns to raise awareness of the relatively unknown condition, reports that there is conflicting evidence as to the frequency of cavernomas. One study found that 1 in every 625 people in the UK has an asymptomatic cavernoma, which equates to about 108,000 people.

Another study found that prevalence was much higher, with undiagnosed cases occurring in 1 person in every 217. 

How are cavernomas diagnosed?

Cavernomas that are not causing severe symptoms are often diagnosed during investigations for other conditions. The most reliable diagnostic tool is considered to be an MRI scan, although CT scans or angiography can be used.

How are cavernomas treated?

Treatment will depend on the individual, and on the size, location, and amount of cavernomas present. The cavernoma may be monitored or surgery may be offered. This may be in the form of neurosurgery or stereotactic radiosurgery, also known as Gamma Knife surgery. 

Cavernomas can be treated by Mr Patrick Grover at Queen Square Radiosurgery Centre, Amethyst Radiotherapy UK.