Clinical presentation, natural history, and outcomes for infantile intracranial cavernous malformations: case series and systematic review of the literature

Childs Nerv Syst. 2023 Jun;39(6):1545-1554. doi: 10.1007/s00381-023-05903-6. Epub 2023 Mar 14.


Introduction: Intracranial cavernous malformations (CMs) are rare vascular malformations of the central nervous system in children. Infantile patients, being a developmentally vulnerable age group, pose a special challenge for management of these lesions. We pooled data from infantile patients diagnosed at our institution and individual cases published in the literature to provide input towards therapeutic decision-making.

Methods: A systematic search of PubMed, MEDLINE, Embase, and Scopus was performed in accordance with PRISMA guidelines to identify all reported cases of intracranial CMs in the literature for infantile patients aged ≤ 2 years. In addition, cases from our institution diagnosed between 2010 and 2020 were also included. Individual cases were pooled and analyzed for clinical presentation, natural history, and outcomes from conservative and surgical management.

Results: A total of 36 cases were included, of which 32 were identified from the literature. Median age at presentation was 14 months (range: 2 days to 24 months) months; 53% (n = 19) were females. Most cavernomas (64%, 23/36) were supratentorial, while 30% (n = 11) were located in brainstem and 5.5% (n = 2) in the cerebellum. With the exception of one patient, all cases were reported to be symptomatic; seizures (n = 15/31, 48.3%) and motor deficits (n = 13/31, 42%) were the most common symptom modalities. A total of 13 patients were managed conservatively upon initial presentation. No symptomatic hemorrhages were observed during 26 total person-years of follow-up. A total of 77% (28/36) underwent surgery; either upfront (23/28, 82%) at initial presentation or following conservative management. Among 12 patients who had preoperative seizures, 11/12 (91.6%) achieved seizure freedom post-resection. Among 7 patients who presented with hemiparesis preoperatively, 5 (71%) demonstrated some improvement, while 1 remained unchanged, and another patient with a brainstem cavernous malformation had worsening of motor function postoperatively. Postoperative recurrence was noted in 3 cases (3/27, 11%).

Conclusion: Annual risk of repeat hemorrhage may be low for infantile patients with intracranial cavernous malformations; however, better follow-up rates and higher number of cases are needed to make a definitive assertion. Surgical resection may be associated with high rates of epilepsy cure and provide improvement in neurological function in a select number of cases.

Keywords: Cavernoma; Intracranial hemorrhage; Intraparenchymal hemorrhage; Pediatric; Vascular malformation.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Stem / pathology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous*
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous, Central Nervous System* / complications
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous, Central Nervous System* / diagnostic imaging
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous, Central Nervous System* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Paresis
  • Seizures / complications