Intracranial venous malformations are veins in the brain which are unusually large. The term venous malformations refers to an abnormality in the spinal cord or the brain. These malformations can cause a wide array of symptoms. These symptoms can be dangerous for the person suffering from them.
Overall, this term is used as an umbrella term for six subdivisions which all have different signs and symptoms associated with the location of the malformations.
Each of these conditions involve blood vessels that are unusually large, twisted, and tangled up with one another, or themselves. At times, these veins are connected to the artery, instead of being connected through fine capillaries, which safely control the amount of blood going into the vessels, which also regulates the pressure.
While the term intracranial venous malformations may be an umbrella term that covers six different conditions, there are some generalized symptoms that patients can look for, and doctors can focus on until a more specific diagnosis is made. The reason symptoms for six different disorders can be generalized is because researchers have discovered that the symptoms patients experience depends on the severity of the condition and not the subcategory.
Intracranial venous malformation refers to the benign formation of abnormal enlarged veins in the brain. The condition is also more commonly known as Vascular Malformations of the Brain (VMB) and actually refers to six different types of venous malformations.
Three forms of intracranial venous malformation are directly related to a hereditary chromosomal abnormality – arteriovenous malformation, cavernous malformations, and telangiectasis. In general vascular malformations tend to affect men and women almost evenly. However, a hereditary form of cavernous malformations tend to affect Mexican Americans in greater frequency. Arteriovenous malformations tend to affect men more than women. The formation of these veins is typically asymptomatic and doesn’t affect how the veins work. Normally, intracranial venous malformation does not require treatment. However, in some cases, associated bleeding can cause headaches, seizures, backaches and even nausea and in severe situations can lead to one-sided weakness or deficits in language processing.
The treatments available today for patients with intracranial venous malformations varies from patient to patient. This is because doctors must make an educated decision based on the severity of the condition, and the location the malformation is found.
The primary treatment method is surgical removal of the malformed venous structure. However, many patients do not require any treatment because the condition does not directly impact their life in a way where completing the surgery would be warranted.
It is important to realize that surgery for this condition is extremely invasive and can be dangerous. Therefore, surgical treatment is reserved for cases where the condition greatly impacts the life of the affected person. The benefits of the surgery must outweigh the potentially life threatening risks of the surgery.
Since most patients with intracranial venous malformation don’t present symptoms and the condition is not considered to be life threatening, there are typically no preventative measures a patient can take prior to diagnosis. Most individuals with this condition don’t know they have it until they are detected during a brain scan for an unrelated incident such as a stroke, or an aneurysm. In these situations, the abnormality is discovered during standard diagnostic tests for the primary condition through methods such as a CT Scan or MRI. Doctors will usually not treat the condition unless the patient experiences seizures or a brain hemorrhage. In these cases, doctors will treat seizures with medication. Hemorrhaging will either be treated by surgery, multiple embolization, or irradiation. Patients that carry the genes for intracranial venous malformation are encouraged to receive genetic counseling.