BACKGROUND: Cavernous malformations (CMs) are not uncommon, but most of them are found to be located intracranially. Intramedullary CMs are rare, accounting for only 3-5% of identified total central nervous system lesions. The natural history of intramedullary CMs and their clinical features, including the risk of hemorrhage from a large series, still remains unclear and needs to be elucidated. We review our experience with surgically treated patients with intramedullary CMs and discuss the clinical features and surgical outcomes.
METHODS: Between March 2004 and March 2010, a total of 21 patients with intramedullary spinal cord CMs were surgically treated in a single institution. Data from 21 patients were retrospectively analyzed.
RESULTS: There were 13 females and 8 males ranging in age from 10 to 70 years (mean age 39.3 years). All patients harbored single symptomatic CM of the nervous system, and multiple lesions were not found. The annual retrospective hemorrhage rate was 2.18% per patient/year. All but one CM were completely resected, and the average follow-up period was 22.1 months (1-73 months). Ten of the 21 patients experienced an improvement in neurological state, 9 patients remained unchanged, and 2 patients experienced worsening of their conditions.
CONCLUSIONS: Symptomatic intramedullary CMs should be surgically removed to avoid further neurological deterioration. Though there are some limitations due to the retrospective nature of this study and its small number of patients, the prognosis was found to be related to the preoperative neurological state and to the type of symptom presentation.