Cavernous Malformations

What is cavernous malformation?

Cavernous hemangioma or cavernous malformations are an abnormal build up of blood vessels within internal organs or the skin.

These malformations arise from very small vessels that separate the arterial system from the venous system. Cavernous hemangiomas are well-defined and clearly visible lesions that can reach a significant size. These malformations account for about 8% to 15% of all the intracranial and spinal vascular malformations. They can cause hemorrhage; and, sometimes can be life threatening if they arise in a critical area of an internal organ.

Causes of cavernous malformation

The causes of cavernous malformations are not yet fully known. Some researchers and studies have shown the importance of estrogen signaling in the rapid growth of hemangiomas.

About one third of hemangiomas are present at the time of birth. The other two thirds arise in the initial months life.

They can be in the upper layers of skin, deep within the skin, or mixture of both. They can also grow within internal organs.

Symptoms of cavernous malformations

The symptoms and appearance of cavernous malformations usually depend on their location.

If they are on the surface of skin, they appear as a ripe strawberry. That’s why they are also known as strawberry nevus.

If these malformations are under the skin, they appear as a bluish swelling. If they grow in an internal organ (such as the liver, larynx, or brain) the symptoms will be related to those that would occur when that organ fails to properly function.

Diagnosis of Cavernous Malformations

Usually cavernous malformations in the skin are diagnosed by via physical examination because they are clearly visible.

In case of deep or complicated lesions, computerized tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans might be used.

CT and MRI scans may also be used to diagnose the cavernous malformations if they occur within internal organs.