Cavernous Malformation (CM)

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  • Cavernous malformation (CM) is a non-neoplastic venous malformation, which can occur sporadically, following radiation, or as a heritable condition 
  • It is a common incidental finding, but can become symptomatic due to hemorrhage 
  • The presence of an associated developmental venous anomaly (DVA), a congenital variant of cerebral venous drainage, increases the confidence of the diagnosis
  • T2 weighted MRI sequences show a lobulated mass with a dark rim (known as “blooming artifact” and best seen on T2*); T1 and/or T2  bright signal may be seen centrally, depending on the age of the blood, creating a “popcorn lesion” because of the lobulated appearance

  • Occasionally, an associated DVA can be seen as a collection of tiny flow voids coalescing into a vein directed towards a dural sinus or deep ependymal vein
  • CT is neither sensitive nor specific for diagnosing CMs; if a CM is seen, it will usually appear hyperdense and somewhat ill-defined
  • CMs are seldom seen on angiography
  • CMs can become symptomatic when they bleed due to mass effect or local inflammation from blood products
  • Resection is curative, although associated DVAs complicate resection because they result in a venous infarction
  • Differential considerations include diffuse axonal injury (DAI), cerebral amyloid angiopathy, and vasculitis
  1. Dasgupta R, Fishman SJ. ISSVA classification. Seminars in Pediatric Surgery 2014; 23(4):158-161
  2. Starcevich J, Hart B, Bartlett M, Selwyn R, Morrison L, Hallstrom J. MRI sequence sensitivity for the detection of spinal cavernous malformations. 2016; available from on 10/17/2019

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