Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
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Home / A–Z Services / Neurovascular Center / What We Treat / Cerebral Cavernous Malformation
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Cerebral Cavernous Malformation


What is a Cerebral Cavernous Malformation (CCM)?

A cavernous malformation is an abnormally formed cluster of enlarged blood vessels, capillaries, and venules that can occur anywhere in the body. Symptoms are most common when the CM is in the brain or spinal cord. In a CM, the blood vessel walls are thinner and less stretchy than normal vessels, making them fragile and more prone to bleeding. CMs are also known as cavernoma, cavernous angioma, cavernous hemangioma, or capillary hemangioma.

Cavernous Malformation (Cortext)
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Cavernous Malformation (Brainstem)
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What are the symptoms of a CCM?

Some individuals with CCMs (an estimated 25 percent) do not experience any symptoms throughout their lives. Others, however, experience seizures, headaches, and focal neurological deficits (vision, speech, and movement problems). The most serious CCM complication is bleeding (hemorrhage) in the brain. Fortunately, brain hemorrhages due to CCMs are usually small. Often there are no symptoms when a small hemorrhage occurs. When bleeding happens, the symptoms and severity depend on the location and size of the bleed.

How do you diagnose a CCM?

Doctors can locate and look at the CCM by taking a computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of your brain. CCMs are usually best diagnosed by MRI, which is more precise than CT. They also are best seen on a special type of MRI, so a routine MRI of the brain may not diagnose it. CCMs rarely show up on an angiogram (a picture of your brain's blood vessels taken by using a dye).

How do you treat a CCM?

Treatment for a CCM depends on your symptoms and your specific condition, and your doctor will talk with you about the best possible treatment for you. If you are not experiencing any symptoms from the CCM, your doctor may want to monitor your condition with routine MRI scans. If you are experiencing symptoms caused by a CCM that is in a good location for brain surgery, your doctor may recommend surgery to completely remove the CCM. Surgery often cannot be done for multiple CCMs or in CCMs that are in sensitive areas of the brain. Radiosurgery (radiation, gamma knife surgery) is not recommended for children due to an increased risk of complications. There are no medications that are known to help CCMs and prevent bleeding.

At Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, we are experts at diagnosing and treating children with CCMs. Through our multidisciplinary center, we provide resources for comprehensive treatment, long-term follow-up, and support for patients and families.

For more information, please contact us.

Last Edited: July 1, 2016
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