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Cavernous Malformations

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Surgery for a Cavernous Malformation

In a patient who is suffering from ongoing or worsening symptoms, recurring hemorrhages, or uncontrolled seizures, surgery may be the best option for treating a cavernous malformation. The neurosurgeon will evaluate each patient individually and make a recommendation on a treatment plan based on the patient’s age and overall health, the size and location of the cav-mal, and the severity of the symptoms.

In some cases, surgery is performed on an emergency basis after a significant hemorrhage. In other cases, the patient and surgeon will have time to discuss the options and make an informed decision about the best way to proceed for that individual patient.

Microsurgical Resection is open surgery performed under general anesthesia and consists of the resection (removal) of the cavernous malformation. When performed by a highly experienced neurosurgeon at a major medical center, a microsurgical resection is an excellent option — the surgeon can completely remove the cavernous malformation with no damage to surrounding brain tissue. Relief from symptoms is usually immediate.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery, or SRS, is not surgery in the conventional sense at all. It is a noninvasive procedure that uses highly targeted radiation beams from multiple angles to obliterate a cavernous malformation. SRS may be appropriate for individuals who are not healthy enough for open surgery, or those who have small cavernous malformations that are in locations that cannot be reached surgically or that are dangerously close to critical brain structures. Stereotactic radiosurgery — often referred to by the names Gamma Knife, CyberKnife, or LINAC (linear accelerator) — is usually only available in major medical centers. (Find out more about the Stereotactic Radiosurgery Program at the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center.)

After surgery or stereotactic radiosurgery, your medical team will monitor your progress and conduct tests to evaluate the success of your treatment.  

Cavernous malformations should be treated at major medical centers by experts in cerebrovascular disorders. Use our online form to request an appointment for a consultation or a second opinion.

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Reviewed by Jared Knopman, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: October 2017
Illustration by Thom Graves, CMI