Background and purpose: Cavernous malformations of the brain (CMs) cause intracranial hemorrhage, but its reported frequency varies, partly attributable to study design. To improve the validity of future research, we aimed to develop a robust definition of CM hemorrhage.
Methods: We systematically reviewed the published literature (Ovid Medline and Embase to June 1, 2007) for definitions of CM hemorrhage used in studies of the untreated clinical course of >or=20 participants with CM(s), to inform the development of a consensus statement on the clinical and imaging features of CM hemorrhage at a scientific workshop of the Angioma Alliance.
Results: A systematic review of 1426 publications about CMs in humans, revealed 15 studies meeting our inclusion criteria. Although 14 (93%) studies provided a definition of CM hemorrhage, data were less complete on the confirmatory type(s) of imaging (87%), whether CM hemorrhage should be clinically symptomatic (73%), and whether hemorrhage had to extend outside the CM or not (47%). We define a CM hemorrhage as requiring acute or subacute onset symptoms (any of: headache, epileptic seizure, impaired consciousness, or new/worsened focal neurological deficit referable to the anatomic location of the CM) accompanied by radiological, pathological, surgical, or rarely only cerebrospinal fluid evidence of recent extra- or intralesional hemorrhage. The definition includes neither an increase in CM diameter without other evidence of recent hemorrhage, nor the existence of a hemosiderin halo.
Conclusions: A consistent approach to clinical and brain imaging classification of CM hemorrhage will improve the external validity of future CM research.