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Cavernomas are clusters of abnormal blood vessels mainly found in the brain and spinal cord. They are sometimes known as cavernous angiomas, cavernous hemangiomas or cerebral cavernous malformations. A typical cavernoma looks a bit like a blackberry.

A cavernoma or cavernous malformation is a vascular abnormality of the central nervous system. It consists of a cluster of abnormal, dilated vessels. Pathologically, it is red to purple in colour, appearing as a raspberry. Cavernomas contain blood products at various stages of evolution and are usually less than 3 centimetres in size.

Cavernomas are usually only diagnosed after a seizure, a loss of function, or from a surprise finding when an MRI is performed for another reason. Cavernomas may have no symptoms; however, more than 30 percent of those with cavernous angiomas eventually will develop symptoms. Often these symptoms occur when patients are 20- to 40-years-old.

The type, frequency, and severity of symptoms often depend on the location of the cavernoma.

Typical symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Epileptic seizure
  • Neurological loss, such as limb weakness, vision or balance problems, or problems with memory and attention
  • Brain hemorrhage, which can be small, but sometimes massive, leading to stroke-like symptoms
  • Spinal cord injury

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