Intramedullary cavernous angiomas of the spinal cord: clinical presentation, pathological features, and surgical management

Neurosurgery. 1992 Aug;31(2):219-29; discussion 229-30. doi: 10.1227/00006123-199208000-00007.


Cavernous angiomas of the spinal cord are rare lesions that can cause severe neurological symptoms. We add a series of 6 patients with intramedullary cavernous angiomas of the spinal cord to 30 patients with 31 histologically verified lesions already described in the literature. Four types of clinical presentation were seen in the 36 patients: 1) discrete episodes of neurological deterioration with varying degrees of recovery between episodes (13 patients); 2) slow progression of neurological decline (12 patients); 3) acute onset of symptoms with rapid decline (8 patients); and 4) acute onset of mild symptoms with subsequent gradual decline lasting weeks to months (3 patients). Of the 36 patients, 25 (69%) were women and 11 (31%) were men. The peak age of presentation was in the fourth decade. The thoracic spinal cord was affected in more than half the patients, with the cervical cord being the next most common location. Histological examination demonstrated the closely apposed vascular channels characteristic of cavernous angiomas. While most vascular channels were thickened and hyalinized, three angiomas had foci of small vessels resembling a capillary angioma. The available data suggest that surgical management of intramedullary angiomas should attempt complete extirpation. The lesions are often well circumscribed with a glial plane between the lesion and normal cord. However, spinal cord angiomas, unlike cranial lesions, have little room for enlargement before devastating symptoms occur. We achieved complete excision in all of our patients, who are all ambulatory and have improved symptoms. Little, if any, increase in neurological deficit was caused by myelotomy and lesion excision. These spinal lesions should be considered for surgery early, before repeated hemorrhage or enlargement can occur.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous / diagnosis*
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous / epidemiology
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous / pathology
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous / surgery
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / surgery
  • United States / epidemiology