An analysis of the natural history of cavernous malformations

Surg Neurol. 1997 Jul;48(1):9-17; discussion 17-8. doi: 10.1016/s0090-3019(96)00425-9.


Background: The treatment of cavernous malformations has been controversial. Some reports suggest that surgical resection of the lesion for the prevention of recurrent hemorrhage should not be considered because of low hemorrhagic risk. However, the role of surgery in management of cavernous malformations is undergoing reevaluation. The decision for surgical resection should be based on a careful analysis of the natural history of this lesion, which is not well understood.

Methods: We investigated, retrospectively, the natural history of 108 cavernous malformations in 62 patients. Individual cavernous malformations were divided into four categories on the basis of magnetic resonance (MR) findings. The pattern of clinical and radiologic presentation and outcomes of management were analyzed.

Results: The age of the patients ranged from 4-63 years (mean: 32.2 years). Multiple lesions were found in 13 of 62 patients (21%) and two of these patients were siblings. Twenty-five out of 62 patients had suffered recurrent symptoms. The bleeding rate was 2.3%/person/year (1.4%/lesion/year) during 2509.6 patient years. There were no significant differences between the bleeding rates of each type of lesion. During the follow-up period of 12-48 months (mean: 22.4 months), two of 28 patients conservatively treated had recurrent hemorrhages (rebleeding rate: 3.8%/person/year). During the follow-up period of 12-66 months (mean: 21.7 months), recurrent hemorrhages were observed in two of 17 patients with radiosurgery (rebleeding rate: 7.8%/person/year).

Conclusion: Our study has provided a profile of the natural history of these lesions. Based on our results, we recommend surgical excision of cavernous malformations in those patients with recurrent symptoms or acute progressive symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cavernous Sinus / diagnostic imaging
  • Cavernous Sinus / pathology*
  • Cavernous Sinus / surgery
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Female
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / classification
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / complications
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / diagnosis*
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / surgery
  • Intracranial Arteriovenous Malformations / therapy*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / etiology