Symptomatic cavernous malformations affecting the spine and spinal cord

Neurosurgery. 1995 Aug;37(2):195-204; discussion 204-5. doi: 10.1227/00006123-199508000-00002.


Ten cases of symptomatic cavernous malformations affecting the spine and spinal cord were retrospectively reviewed. The cases display a spectrum of pathological findings involving the vertebral body, vertebral body with epidural extension, epidural space without bony involvement, intradural extramedullary space, and intramedullary lesions. Lesions at all locations are identical histologically, electron microscopically, and immunohistochemically. This perspective, in which cavernous malformations are envisioned as a single entity arising at numerous locations, runs contrary to the view found in the neurosurgical literature. In most discussions of cavernous malformations, vertebral body lesions are depicted as separate entities from intradural lesions. Cavernous malformations, also called cavernous hemangiomas, are developmental vascular hamartomas that, by definition, do not grow by mitotic activity. Yet, the expansion of these lesions is well documented both in the literature and among our cases. The therapeutic modalities used in our series included observation, embolization, radiation, and surgical resection alone or in combination. All modalities are effective but must be tailored to the specific needs and condition of the patient. The embryology, methods of treatment, and proposed mechanisms of growth, plus similarities and differences between cavernous malformations at each location, are reviewed. Analogies between spinal and intracranial lesions are presented. On the basis of this series and a review of the literature, we conclude that cavernous malformations represent a single entity regardless of location. Segregation based on location, as is prevalent throughout the neurosurgical literature, hinders an overall understanding of these lesions. Cavernous malformations are more appropriately viewed as a single pathological entity arising in a multitude of locations. The difficulties encountered when managing cavernous malformations at various locations are unique to the location and not the lesion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / surgery
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Female
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous / diagnosis
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous / pathology
  • Hemangioma, Cavernous / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord / surgery
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Spinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Spinal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Spine / pathology
  • Spine / surgery