Clinical characteristics of familial and sporadic pediatric cerebral cavernous malformations and outcomes

J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2023 Jul 21;32(4):506-513. doi: 10.3171/2023.5.PEDS22397. Print 2023 Oct 1.


Objective: Cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM) is a subtype of the vascular malformations found within the cerebral cortex. Although rare and usually discovered incidentally, these vascular abnormalities can predispose patients to spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage and subsequently lead to a myriad of neurological symptoms at presentation such as seizures and other focal neurological deficits. Although the symptoms and presentations of CCM have been adequately described in the adult population, disease characteristics and outcomes have not been extensively described in the pediatric population. Furthermore, the etiology of CCM-e.g., familial versus sporadic disease, as well as the risk factors for hemorrhage and neurological deficits and predictors of clinical and surgical outcomes-has not been adequately explored in the pediatric population. The current study attempts to classify and characterize differences in the clinical presentation, characteristics, and outcomes of CCMs between familial and sporadic cases within the pediatric population.

Methods: A retrospective review identified 131 pediatric patients with radiographically confirmed diagnosis of CCM. All pertinent demographic and clinical variables were collected. CCM lesions were characterized using T2-weighted and susceptibility-weighted angiography (SWAN) MRI. Statistical analysis was conducted using the t-test for continuous variables, whereas categorical variables were analyzed with the Fisher exact test or chi-square test. Multivariate analysis was performed using a Cox proportional hazards model with R version 4.2.0.

Results: This retrospective study identified 131 pediatric CCM patients with a mean age of 8.4 years, and 54% (n = 71) were male. Twenty-seven percent (n = 35) were identified as cases with familial CCM, with the remainder classified as sporadic. The most common symptoms at presentation included generalized symptoms (headaches, nausea, and vomiting) or seizures, with a large proportion of patients also presenting as asymptomatic. No significant differences were observed in severity of symptoms between patients harboring different forms of the disease. Patients with familial CCM were noted to have a larger lesion size on average (5.26 cm3 vs 1.6 cm3, p = 0.047). These patients also had a shorter progression-free follow-up interval, with 50% of patients showing progression by 888 days, compared with only 15% of sporadic CCM patients during the same period (p = 0.0019). Familial etiology of the disease and larger average lesion volume were independent, significant predictors of disease progression (p = 0.001, HR 3.29, 95% CI 1.65-6.54) and future hemorrhage (p = 0.023, HR 1.1, 95% CI 1.01-1.10), respectively.

Conclusions: Familial and sporadic CCMs tend to present with similar characteristics within the pediatric population. Patients with the familial form of the disease have an increased risk of progressive disease in terms of further hemorrhagic events.

Keywords: cerebral angioma; cerebral cavernous malformation; familial cavernous malformations; pediatric neurosurgery; vascular disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous, Central Nervous System* / diagnostic imaging
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous, Central Nervous System* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures

Supplementary concepts

  • Familial cerebral cavernous malformation