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Cavernous Malformations (Cavernomas)

What is a cavernous malformation (CM)?

A cavernous malformation (CM) is an abnormal cluster of capillaries and venules (tiny blood vessels) that periodically bleed and give rise to a "popcorn-like" lesion in the brain or spinal cord with very thin walls that contains blood of different ages. CMs are also known as cavernomas, cavernous angiomas, cavernous hemangiomas or capillary hemangiomas. 

CMs can be hereditary, which means that they have been passed from the parents to their children. Most CMs declare themselves by causing seizures, headaches or a major bleeding episode. Less than one percent of people are born with a brain or spinal cord lesion that eventually becomes a CM.

Diagnosis of Cavernous Malformations 

We typically first find the CM in a computed tomography (CT) scan, or more commonly in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The appearance of the cavernous malformation on the MRI is very characteristic. An angiogram is usually not necessary.

Treatment for Cavernous Malformations 

Most CMs do not require surgical treatment, but for those patients who do need surgery, the Johns Hopkins cerebrovascular team treats CMs by microsurgical resection. We perform a craniotomy and use a microscope, remove the CM from the brain or spinal cord. We do not recommend stereotactic radiotherapy (also called stereotactic radiosurgery) as a treatment for CMs.

For more information, contact the Johns Hopkins Cerebrovascular Center at 410-955-2228.

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Maryland Patients

To request an appointment or refer a patient, please call:
Neurology: 410-955-2228
Neurosurgery: 410-614-1533

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Adult Neurology: 410-955-9441
Pediatric Neurology: 410-955-4259
Adult Neurosurgery: 410-955-6406
Pediatric Neurosurgery: 410-955-7337


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