Cavernous malformations are abnormally formed blood vessels that have the appearance of a small mulberry in the brain or spinal cord. These malformations may be hereditary or they may occur on their own.

These malformations may leak blood, leading to bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage). This can cause neurological symptoms, depending on the location of your cavernous malformation in your nervous system. Your symptoms may include weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg, unsteadiness, vision loss or double vision, and difficulties speaking or swallowing. Seizures also can occur. Repeat hemorrhages may occur soon after your initial hemorrhage (within weeks) or later after your initial hemorrhage (many months or years later), or repeat hemorrhages may never occur.

  • Experience. Mayo Clinic doctors trained in brain and nervous system conditions (neurologists), brain and nervous system surgery (neurosurgeons), brain imaging (neuroradiologists) and other specialties have experience diagnosing and treating people with cavernous malformations and other brain and blood vessel conditions (cerebrovascular conditions).
  • Team approach. At Mayo Clinic, doctors work together as an integrated team to diagnose and treat your condition.
  • Research. Mayo Clinic doctors trained in many areas study cavernous malformations and related conditions.

Diagnosis

Mayo Clinic doctors trained in brain and nervous system conditions (neurologists), brain imaging (neuroradiologists) and other specialties diagnose your condition.

Your doctor may diagnose cavernous malformations during testing for other neurological conditions. You often may not experience symptoms. Some people with cavernous malformations may experience seizures, bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage) or other neurological symptoms.

Doctors may order tests to diagnose cavernous malformations or other related conditions.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In this test, magnetic and radio waves create detailed images of your blood vessels and your brain. Sometimes a doctor may inject a contrast dye into a vein in your arm to make the blood vessels in your brain visible on the images (magnetic resonance angiography or magnetic resonance venography). Doctors may discover cavernous malformations during an MRI for unrelated reasons.
  • Genetic testing. If you have a family history of the condition, Mayo Clinic doctors offer genetic counseling and tests to look for changes associated with cavernous malformations in genes or chromosomes.

Treatment

Doctors trained in brain and nervous system conditions (neurologists), brain and nervous system surgery (neurosurgeons), brain imaging (neuroradiologists) and other specialties work with you to appropriately treat cavernous malformations and other neurological conditions.

Your treatment may include:

  • Observation. If you're not experiencing symptoms, your doctor may monitor your cavernous malformation with intermittent testing, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to watch for any changes in the malformation. Your doctor will also ask about any changes in your symptoms.
  • Surgery. If you're experiencing symptoms and your malformation can be reached surgically, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the cavernous malformation.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery. In very rare cases, doctors may perform stereotactic radiosurgery, if your malformation is causing repeated hemorrhages and if it's located in an area that can't be reached by surgery. In this procedure, doctors use targeted radiation (stereotactic radiosurgery) to treat cavernous malformations. This procedure may lower the number of repeated hemorrhages. However, radiosurgery may not completely eliminate malformations and the procedure may cause complications, such as neurological problems.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks #1 for neurology and neurosurgery in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery, and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is ranked high performing for neurology and neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report.

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.

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What Sets Mayo Clinic Apart

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

At Mayo Clinic in Arizona, doctors trained in neurology, neurosurgery and neuroradiology diagnose and treat people with cavernous malformations.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Doctors trained in neurology, neurosurgery and neuroradiology diagnose and treat people with cavernous malformations at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Doctors trained in cerebrovascular diseases, neurology, neurosurgery and neuroradiology diagnose and treat people with cavernous malformations at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo Clinic doctors trained in brain and nervous system conditions (neurologists) and other doctors research diagnostic tests, potential treatments and treatment outcomes for cavernous malformations and other neurological conditions. Researchers also study risk of hemorrhages in people with cavernous malformations. Learn more on the neurology research website.

Mayo publications

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic doctors on cavernous malformations on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Nov. 16, 2012