Vascular Malformations of the Head and Neck

A vascular malformation of the head or neck is a condition that involves some type of abnormal connections among the blood vessels in the brain, face, sinus area, or spine.

There are several types of vascular malformations, including:

Carotid-Cavernous Fistulas

The cavernous sinus is a hollow area behind the eyes. A carotid-cavernous sinus fistula (CCF) is a vascular abnormality in this hollow area.

CCFs are easy to misinterpret. Patients may be misdiagnosed with conjunctivitis, blepharitis, or other eye conditions. Prompt and accurate diagnosis helps prevent vision loss.

Treatment success rates are high when performed early by an experienced specialist. Endovascular techniques available at Aurora BayCare make treatment for these fistulas less risky.

Cavernous Malformation (Cavernoma)

A cavernous malformation (also called a cavernoma or cav mal) is a vascular malformation or abnormality in the blood vessels. A cavernoma presents a threat when it occurs in the brain or spinal cord. These are rare, complicated conditions and treatment varies depending on the size and location of the malformation.

If your cavernoma is not causing symptoms, doctors may recommend ongoing monitoring. Surgical treatment may be considered if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of a cavernoma: seizures, hemorrhages, progressive brain damage.

Capillary Telangiectasia

These are small clusters of abnormally swollen capillaries. They rarely cause symptoms or problems for people who have them. They are unlikely to change over time or rupture, and treatment is rarely required.

Treatment Options

Most vascular malformations are complex. We take a collaborative approach to diagnosis and treatment. A team of doctors will be involved in making a recommendation and helping you choose the right treatment option for you.

We will help you weigh the risk of leaving your condition untreated against the possible risks and benefits of treatment. Treatment goals are designed to protect you from health problems related to your vascular malformation.

The most common approaches:

  • Embolization is a way of blocking abnormal blood vessels. The procedure involves injecting a liquid glue-like substance or inserting small metal coils into the affected area. Embolization may block off blood supply to the malformation and get rid of it completely. Or, embolization may reduce the size and reduce your related symptoms. Sometimes embolization is used to shrink a malformation so it is safer and easier to treat with radiotherapy or surgery.
  • Surgery may be used to detach the malformation from your arteries and veins. The type of surgery (microsurgery, open surgery), depends on the nature of your condition.
  • Radiotherapy uses radiation to treat small vascular malformations. It works by targeting a high dose of radiation at the malformation, causing the vessels to degrade and close over time.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend ongoing observation, instead of treatment. This may be the appropriate choice if your vascular malformation is small and isn’t causing symptoms.

Hope for Patients with Vascular Malformations

If you or someone you care about has a vascular malformation, consult the specialists at Aurora BayCare. We are continually pioneering new treatment, diagnosis, and prevention approaches for cerebrovascular diseases and disorders.

Our dedicated team of neurosurgeons and other expert clinicians are here to help you understand your options and provide a clear path forward.

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