Intramedullary cavernous hemangioma (CH) is a rare vascular lesion that is mainly characterized by the sudden onset of hemorrhage in young, asymptomatic patients, who then experience serious neurological deterioration. Despite the severity of this condition, the therapeutic approach and timing of intervention for CH remain matters of debate. The aim of this study was to evaluate the clinical characteristics of CH patients before and after surgery and to identify prognostic indicators that affect neurological function in these patients.
This single-center retrospective study included 66 patients who were treated for intramedullary CH. Among them, 57 underwent surgery and 9 patients received conservative treatment. The authors collected demographic, symptomology, imaging, neurological, and surgical data. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed to identify the prognostic indicators for neurological function.
When comparing patients with stable and unstable gait prior to surgery, patients with unstable gait had a higher frequency of hemorrhagic episodes (52.4% vs 19.4%, p = 0.010), as assessed by the modified McCormick Scale. The lesion was significantly smaller in patients who underwent conservative treatment compared with surgery (2.5 ± 1.5 mm vs 5.9 ± 4.1 mm, respectively; p = 0.024). Overall, the patients experienced significant neurological recovery after surgery, but a worse preoperative neurological status was identified as an indicator affecting surgical outcomes by multivariate analysis (OR 10.77, 95% CI 2.88–40.36, p < 0.001). In addition, a larger lesion size was significantly associated with poor functional recovery in patients who had an unstable gait prior to surgery (8.6 ± 4.5 mm vs 3.5 ± 1.6 mm, p = 0.011).
Once a hemorrhage occurs, surgical intervention should be considered to avoid recurrence of the bleeding and further neurological injury. In contrast, if the patients with larger lesion presented with worse preoperative functional status, surgical intervention could have a risk for aggravating the functional deficiencies by damaging the thinning cord parenchyma. Conservative treatment may be selected if the lesion is small, but regular neurological examination by MRI is needed for assessment of a change in lesion size and for detection of functional deterioration.