Cavernous Malformation

Cavernous malformations are abnormal clusters of dilated blood vessels that form in the tissue of the brain. These distended "caverns" of vasculature cause blood to flow more slowly, and may also lead to vessel leakage. Dr. Peter Nakaji is an internationally-renowned brain surgeon who can repair cavernous malformation at his Phoenix, AZ, practice. Dr. Nakaji, board certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgeons, was recently appointed director of the Neurosurgery Residency Program at the Barrow Neurological Institute, the largest neurosurgery residency program in the country. 

Cavernous Malformation and the Brain

Cavernous malformations usually form in the white matter (cortex) of the brain. These localized collections of blood vessels are abnormal in terms of structure and number, and they alter blood flow. Cavernous malformations may affect not only the brain, but also the spinal cord, skin, and retinas.

When discovered in the brain, this condition is referred to as Cerebral Cavernous Malformation (CCM). CCM compromises junctions between neighboring cells and supporting smooth muscle structures (elastin). This may cause bleeding from vascular lesions, triggering the primary symptoms of CCM.

Cavernous malformations are non-cancerous (nonneoplastic).

Image of cerebral cavernous malformation

Cavernous malformation can lead to serious complications if left untreated.

Signs, Symptoms, and Complications

About one in 200 people have CCM, and men and women of all ethnic backgrounds and ages are equally affected. While some patients demonstrate no symptoms, other patients will experience:

  • Headaches
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Problems with memory and balance
  • Difficulty with vision or speech

As one of the leading brain surgeons in the world, Dr. Nakaji can provide the help you need to successfully treat and manage your CCM.

In some cases, CCM can cause serious complications, including:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Seizure
  • Death

Symptoms vary depending upon the location of the CCM, and its propensity to bleed. Cavernous malformations can lead to serious complications. If you have any symptoms whatsoever, please contact our office immediately. Dr. Nakaji is an expert neurosurgeon, and he possesses the skill necessary to restore your cerebral health. 

Causes of Cavernous Malformation

There are two types of CCM:

Sporadic Cavernous Malformation: Individuals with this type of CCM generally suffer from only one cavernous malformation lesion, which is not caused by an inherited genetic mutation. Patients affected by sporadic CCM have a lesser risk of passing on the malformation to their children. Sporadic CCMs may be caused by trauma, radiation, or injury to the spinal cord. 

Familial Cavernous Malformation: Familial cavernous malformation is caused by inherited genetic mutations, and is responsible for at least 20 percent of all CCM cases. The mutation affects both genders equally, and individuals affected by this variety of CCM are more likely to develop multiple lesions and experience symptoms.


Currently, there is no treatment specifically designed for CCM, but Dr. Nakaji can help to reduce symptoms with seizure medications or surgical removal of the malformation. Surgery is assessed on a case-by-case basis, and is typically encouraged for patients who have had a recent hemorrhage. Radiosurgery is an effective treatment for sporadic CCM, but is not recommended for familial CCM.

Surgery on a CCM located on the brain stem or spinal cord is risky; however, malformations in these areas may prove more dangerous if left untreated. Dr. Nakaji will assess your condition and weigh the risks and benefits, advising you accordingly depending upon the lesion's location, your age, and the likelihood of hemorrhaging occurring.

Learn More

Cavernous malformations is a serious medical condition. If you have a family history of CCM or are demonstrating any symptoms, contact Dr. Nakaji immediately to set up an MRI. As one of the leading brain surgeons in the world, Dr. Nakaji can provide the help you need to successfully treat and manage your CCM.

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