Intracranial venous malformations

The intracranial venous malformation is the condition of abnormal enlargement of veins in the brain. It is a type of blood vessel abnormalities in the brain or spinal cord. Generally, the walls of a blood vessel are made of smooth muscle cells that help in holding the vessel in proper shape. In venous malformations, the abnormal smooth muscle cells become enlarged and decrease the pressure of blood flow through it leading to blood clots in the vessel.

Venous malformations are very painful. Repeated and excessive blood clots damage the blood vessel wall. They form hard lumps within the malformation. Intracranial venous malformations are also called as vascular malformations of the brain, cerebral malformations-vascular or occult intracranial vascular malformations. The intracranial vascular malformations are into different types such as:

  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVM)
  • Cavernous malformations (CM)
  • Venous angiomas (VA)
  • Telangiectasias (TA)
  • Vein of Galen malformations (VGM)
  • Mixed malformations (MM)

The intracranial vascular malformations are classified into different types based on the causes. The symptoms and severity of all the types are different. The arteriovenous malformations lead to abnormal arteries and veins. The cavernous malformations lead to enlarged blood-filled spaces. The venous angiomas lead to abnormal veins. Telangiectasias lead to enlarged capillary-sized vessels.


The exact causes of intracranial vascular malformations are not known. Sometimes, they may be present at birth. They may also be caused by inheritance of genetic components.


The signs and symptoms of intracranial venous malformations depend on the type of vascular malformation, its size and location in the head. In some cases, symptoms are not present or identified.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Cerebral hemorrhage
  • Epilepsy
  • Visual problems
  • Noise in the head
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Speech problems
  • Weakness in arm or leg
  • Balancing problems
  • Enlarged blood vessels on the scalp

Diagnosis of Intracranial Venous Malformations

The different diagnostic tests of intracranial venous malformations include:

CT scan:Cross-sectional X-ray images of the brain are taken at different angles to identify venous malformations.

MRI scan:High-frequency radio waves along with a strong magnetic field are used to take detailed images of the brain, which help in identifying abnormalities in the brain. It helps in identifying the exact location of malformation.

Angiogram:It is an X-ray scan to produce images of blood vessels. It requires initial preparation, and some blood tests will be carried out as an initial preparation. A local anesthesia will be given and after that a very thin, flexible catheter is inserted into the blood vessel in the groin (the femoral artery). The catheter will be positioned into different blood vessels and X-ray images of the blood vessels are taken.


The treatment of Intracranial Venous Malformations is based mainly to protect from developing future problems due to the venous malformation that has occurred. The treatment methods for intracranial venous malformations include:

Neurosurgery:It is performed by cutting open the cranium (craniotomy). This surgery usually depends on the size and exact location of the malformation.

Embolization:It is a technique to block off the blood supply to the malformation. It helps in reducing the size of the malformation. It reduces the symptoms of noise in the head.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery:It is used to treat small sized malformations. It is a single treatment which uses high-energy X-rays. These are delivered by a machine called a linear accelerator or gamma knife. The X-rays destroys the malformations. This procedure does not involve any incisions.