Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations

What are Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations?

Central nervous system vascular malformations (CNSVM) are abnormal, snarled tangles of blood vessels that cause multiple irregular connections between the arties and veins and are classified by location, size, and are distinguished as venous angiomas, cavernous malformations, capillary telangiectasias, and arteriovenous malformations including the varix of the great vein of Galen along with other vascular malformation.

The predominant location and morphology pattern of the different kinds of vascular malformations in the spinal cord and brain and their embryology are examined.  50-80% of the angiomas are located in the cerebral hemispheres, 10- 18% in central brain areas (internal capsule, choroid plexus, and basal ganglia), and 10-30% are located in the posterior fossa.  Arteriovenous malformations cause the absence of capillaries which allows the blood to bypass tissue and go directly from the arteries to the veins leading to tissue damage and the death of nerve cells along with other cells.  In some cases a weakened blood vessel may burst and spill blood into the brain causing a hemorrhage that can lead to a stroke or brain damage.

What are the Symptoms of Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations?

Symptoms may vary according to the affected area in which these malformations are present.

General issues caused by this condition may include paralysis or muscle weakness in one area of the body, inability to control eye movement, difficulty remembering things, confusion, hallucinations, difficulty doing things that require planning (apraxia), difficulty speaking or understanding language (aphasia), loss of coordination (ataxia), dementia, and back pain.

Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations Causes

Vascular malformations aren’t fully understood. Some of the central nervous system vascular malformations are known to be hereditary, with a link being found to chromosome seven. This link also shows why Hispanic-Americans have a higher rate of developing these disorders. Injuries to the central nervous system can cause malformations; this is usually the case when lesions are found in adults. When the abnormalities are found during fetal development it’s known to be because of changes to various chemical structures that control the formation of blood vessels. Scientists are still unsure as to why these changes occur. Central nervous system vascular malformations occur equally in men and women. However, arteriovenous malformations are more likely to show up in men.

How are Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations Treated?

The best method of treatment for central nervous system vascular malformations is either focused radiation therapy or surgery.  Surgery consists of either conventional surgery, endovascular embolization, and radiosurgery.

Central Nervous System Vascular Malformations Prevention

There isn’t a sure-fire way to prevent central nervous system vascular malformations because the exact cause of the nervous system defect is unknown. There is a link to some of the abnormalities being genetic, and researchers are following that theory. Until the cause is known, there isn’t a clear means of prevention. For adults, avoiding injuries to the central nervous system will reduce the chances of getting a central nervous system malformation.

If you’re pregnant, eat healthily and avoid exposure to any toxins that might be transferred to the fetus. Sometimes toxins that don’t affect an adult can have lasting effects on a fetus. There are treatments available if you’re dealing with this issue or someone you know is. The treatment goal is to destroy or remove the abnormality and prevent further bleeding. The treatment varies depending on whether any malformations have ruptured. If none have ruptured, there are medications that can be prescribed to help with symptoms. If one has ruptured, surgery is usually delayed to allow for healing; when surgery is performed it’s done using very precise tools to prevent complications to the nervous system.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
November 29, 2017
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