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What are Intracranial Venous Malformations?

Intracranial venous malformations, also known as vascular or cerebral malformations, are blood vessels, or veins, in your brain that have become abnormally large. Normal blood vessel walls allow blood to pass freely. When malformed, the cells of the wall become swollen, slowing down the natural blood flow and sometimes resulting in blood clots.

What Are the Causes of Intracranial Venous Malformations?

The exact cause of intracranial venous formations is unknown but may be genetic and present at birth. These formations are found equally in both men and women.

Symptoms of Intracranial Venous Malformations

Intracranial venous malformations often don’t have any symptoms, but when present, symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Memory problems
  • Depression or anxiety

Diagnosis and Testing

Without present symptoms, doctors don’t treat intracranial venous malformations unless they are discovered to be more serious. Mild cases usually resolve themselves. This condition, usually asymptomatic, is often only detected when they show on brain imaging scans ordered for an unrelated problem. Computed tomography (CT) scans, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and angiograms – a specialized x-ray procedure using contrast dyes that shows images of the cerebral blood vessels – may reveal them.

Treatment of Intracranial Venous Malformations

Some serious malformations that result in brain hemorrhage or seizures can be treated with medication, but further preventative treatment can be advisable.
This can include:

  • Embolization — a minimally invasive procedure that stops the blood supply to the affected vessel
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery — Gamma rays/X-rays are delivered
  • Craniotomy — surgery that temporarily removes a piece of the skull

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