Cavernous malformations are abnormally formed blood vessels that have the appearance of a small mulberry. Cavernous malformations can occur anywhere in the body, but usually only create problems 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.

Symptoms may include weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking, difficulty understanding others, unsteadiness, vision changes, or severe headache. Seizures also can occur. Repeat hemorrhages can occur soon after your initial hemorrhage or much later, or a repeat hemorrhage 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). Each year, doctors at Mayo Clinic treat almost 400 people with cavernous malformations.
  • 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.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks No. 1 for neurology and neurosurgery in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., are ranked among the Best Hospitals 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.

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care — and trusted answers — like they've never experienced.

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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, a detailed picture is made of your brain. The blood vessels in the brain may be imaged as well. Sometimes a doctor may inject a contrast dye into a vein in your arm to look at the brain tissue in a slightly different way, or to better look at the blood vessels in the brain (magnetic resonance angiography or magnetic resonance venography). Doctors may also 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.

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. Sometimes intermittent testing is recommended, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to watch for any changes in the malformation. Let your doctor know right away about any changes in your symptoms.
  • Surgery. If you're experiencing symptoms related to the cavernous malformation and your malformation can be reached surgically, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the malformation.

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's campus 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's campus 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's campus 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), brain and nervous system surgery (neurosurgeons), brain imaging (neuroradiologists) and other doctors research diagnostic tests, treatments and treatment outcomes for cavernous malformations and other neurological conditions. Researchers also study the 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.

July 23, 2015