Mr Christos Tolias explains to us about cavernomas.
A cavernoma is a gathering of abnormal blood vessels usually located in the brain and spinal cord. Cavernomas can also be known as cavernous angioma, cavernous haemangioma or cavernous malformation (CCM). Cavernomas look like raspberries and usually measure from around 2 millimetres to several centimetres in diameter.
Symptoms of cavernoma
Cavernomas may not cause a person to have any symptoms but they are often diagnosed after a person has experience symptoms and is being investigated.
Weakness, numbness, memory issues and trouble when concentrating
Other neurological problems such as slurred speech, double or blurred vision, balance problems, tremor or dizziness.
Cavernomas are different from patient to patient, it all depends on severity, location and duration. A person can experience problems with cavernomas when they are putting pressure or bleeding in certain areas of the brain. Severe cases of haemorrhage can potentially be life threatening and have long-term effects on the individual but more commonly the bleed is small and may not be symptomatic.
What causes a cavernoma?
Cavernomas do occur without clear cause and there is no obvious reason, but there are genetic links to cavernomas but most cases are completely random. Genetic testing can be carried out on cavernomas.
Scanning is the best way of quickly diagnosing a person for many different conditions. An MRI scan may be used which will be able to show a detailed image of the brain and spine and will show the cavernoma. Other imaging and testing is available, such as CT or angiography but MRI is preferable.
Treating the cavernoma
Treatment for a cavernoma does very from person to person. As mentioned before, it is all about severity, symptoms and location and effective treatment will vary depending on the cavernoma.
Watch and wait – If a person is not experiencing symptoms or very little and the cavernoma is not causing any type of risk to the brain then the option of watching and waiting may be more beneficial. A patient will be asked to come in for regular check-ups and have MRI scans to check for any changes.
Medication – Medication will not resolve or change a cavernoma but it will help manage the symptoms it is causing such as seizures.
Neurosurgery – Neurosurgery can be carried out to remove the cavernoma. There are risks involved but usually the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks.
Other avenues of treatment can be stereotactic radiosurgery such as GammaKnife or CyberKnife which is non-invasive. This is used when it is too much of a risk to perform surgery on the patient which usually occurs when the cavernoma is in a compromising position.
A patient who has a cavernoma or has undergone treatment for this will need regular check-ups and scans such as MRI. Your doctor will be able to see if the cavernoma is changing in size if it has not been removed or see if it is growing back if it was surgically removed.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.