Also known as: cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM), cavernous angioma, cavernous haemangioma
Cavernomas are a collection of blood vessels made up of abnormal cells that are usually found in the brain. They can be unstable or bleed, and this can be harmful to your health.
What are cavernomas?
A typical cavernoma looks like a raspberry and measures from a few millimetres to several centimetres.
Unlike arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), cavernomas can develop later in life.
Cavernomas can cause small bleeds that affect the way your brain works, this can lead to problems that affect the central nervous system, such as seizures.
Cavernomas are also known as a cerebral cavernous malformation, a cavernous angioma or a cavernous haemangioma.
How common are cavernomas?
Cavernomas are not that common as less than 2% of people in the UK will develop a cavernoma. However, this makes it a slightly more common condition than an arteriovenous malformation (AVM).
Around 30% of people who have a cavernoma may develop symptoms and will need treatment.
What causes a cavernoma?
A cavernoma can be caused by a gene that runs in families. However, most of the time it’s not known why a cavernoma develops and they can occur randomly.
Cavernomas are different to healthy blood vessels as they are unstable and can leak blood. But the amount of blood released is usually quite small. Bleeds tend to happen in cycles and having more than one bleed in the same part of the brain can lead to problems over time.
What are the symptoms of cavernomas?
A cavernoma can cause symptoms depending on where it is in the brain.
Symptoms of a cavernoma include:
- Loss of vision
- Problems with hearing
- Balance problems
- Memory problems
How are cavernomas diagnosed?
Cavernomas are diagnosed using an MRI scan, where we look at a picture of the brain.
Because cavernomas are not areas of high blood flow, they do not show up well on an angiogram or CT scan.
How are cavernomas treated?
If you have a cavernoma, your treatment will depend on:
- Your general health
- The size of the cavernoma
- The location of the cavernoma
- How many cavernomas there are
Sometimes your consultant may recommend your symptoms, such as headaches and seizures, are managed with medication rather than you having an invasive treatment.
However, if there is a high chance that your cavernoma may bleed more than expected, you may be offered the following treatments to reduce this risk:
- Neurosurgery – at The London Clinic, world-class neurosurgeons will remove your cavernoma while you are asleep under a general anaesthetic
- Stereotactic radiosurgery – we carry out incredibly precise stereotactic radiosurgery with a machine called CyberKnife
- CyberKnife is very useful for treating cavernomas that are in a location that makes neurosurgery too difficult or dangerous.
- CyberKnife uses highly focused beams of radiation to get rid of the cavernoma.