Coexistence of intracranial and spinal cavernous malformations: a study of prevalence and natural history

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  • 1 Department of Neurologic Surgery, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota
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Object

The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of intracranial cavernous malformations (CMs) in a large series of predominantly Caucasian patients with spinal cord CMs. The authors also studied the natural history of spinal CMs in patients who were treated nonoperatively.

Methods

The medical records of 67 consecutive patients (32 female and 35 male patients) in whom a spinal CM was diagnosed between 1994 and 2002 were reviewed. The patients’ mean age at presentation was 50 years (range 13–82 years). Twenty-five patients underwent resection of the lesion. Forty-two patients in whom the spinal CM was diagnosed using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging were followed expectantly. Thirty-three (49%) of 67 patients underwent both spinal and intracranial MR imaging. All available imaging studies were reviewed to determine the coexistence of an intracranial CM.

Fourteen (42%) of the 33 patients with spinal CMs who underwent intracranial MR imaging harbored at least one cerebral CM in addition to the spinal lesion. Six (43%) of these 14 patients did not have a known family history of CM. Data obtained during the long-term follow-up period (mean 9.7 years, total of 319 patient-years) were available for 33 of the 42 patients with a spinal CM who did not undergo surgery. Five symptomatic lesional hemorrhages (neurological events), four of which were documented on neuroimaging studies, occurred during the follow-up period, for an overall event rate of 1.6% per patient per year. No patient experienced clinically significant neurological deficits due to recurrent hemorrhage.

Conclusions

As many as 40% of patients with a spinal CM may harbor a similar intracranial lesion, and approximately 40% of patients with coexisting spinal and intracranial CMs may have the nonfamilial (sporadic) form of the disease. Patients with symptomatic spinal CMs who are treated nonoperatively may have a small risk of clinically significant recurrent hemorrhage. The findings will aid in evaluation of surveillance images and in counseling of patients with spinal CMs, irrespective of family history.

Abbreviations used in this paper:

CM = cavernous malformation; CNS = central nervous system; FOV = field of view; MR = magnetic resonance.

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