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Cerebral Cavernous Malformation (CCM)

What is a CCM?

A CM or cavernous malformation is an abnormally formed cluster of enlarged blood vessels that can occur in the brain and spinal cord. They represent one of four congenital blood vessels malformations of the central nervous system and can present in both adults and children. The walls of these lesions are fragile which can lead to hemorrhage.

Cerebral Cavernous Malformation (Brainstem)

Cerebral Cavernous Malformation (Cortex)

What are the symptoms of a CCM?

Patients may experience symptoms such as seizures, headaches, and focal neurological deficits (vision, speech, and movement problems). Hemorrhages due to CCMs are often small and sometimes go unnoticed. Symptoms typically occur when sensitive areas of the brain or spinal cord are affected by the bleed.

How do you diagnose a CCM?

In most cases, CCMs are diagnosed with CT or MRI scans. MRI is more sensitive to demonstrating the cavernoma and is also very good at determining the age of the hemorrhage. Interestingly, cerebral angiography rarely demonstrates a CCM as the blood vessels traversing it are small and not visible using this technique.

How do you treat a CCM?

Treatment for a CCM depends on your symptoms and your specific condition. In some cases, cavernous malformations are simply observed due to their dangerous location. In others, surgical resection is recommended. It is not uncommon to have multiple scans over a period of time in order to determine the bleeding or growth pattern of the lesion. Radiation therapy is not recommended for CCMs and there are no medications known to help prevent bleeding.

At Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center,  we are experts at diagnosing and treating adults and children with CCM. 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.

Page reviewed on: Sep 02, 2014

Page reviewed by: Robert J. Singer, MD

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