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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 144-149

Dorsal spinal epidural cavernous angioma; A case report

Department of Neurosurgery, Apollo Specialty Hospital, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission09-Apr-2020
Date of Decision23-May-2020
Date of Acceptance18-Jul-2020
Date of Web Publication20-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Girish Krishna Joshi
Department of Neurosurgery, Apollo Specialty Hospital, Jayanagar 3rd Block, Near Madhavan Park, Bengaluru - 560 011, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ajns.AJNS_150_20

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Spinal cavernous angiomas are lesions formed by vessels lined by closely clustered endothelial cells. They are common in the vertebral body and less common in an intradural location. However, these are very rare in the extra-osseous and epidural region. Less than 100 cases have been reported. Here, we report a case of dorsal spinal extradural cavernous angioma in a 52-year-old man who presented with back pain and difficulty in walking. Magnetic resonance imaging brain showed D7–D8 (thoracic) extradural spinal lesion, enhancing homogeneously on contrast administration. He underwent D7–D8 hemilaminectomy and tumor decompression. The tumor was extradural, tightly adherent to the dura, and highly vascular. He recovered completely after surgical removal with no recurrence 2 years after removal. He was not administered adjuvant radiotherapy. In this article, we review the literature regarding clinical features, imaging findings, and outcome of spinal epidural cavernous angioma.

Keywords: Cavernous angioma of the spine, epidural spine tumor, magnetic resonance imaging spine, spinal tumor, spine tumor surgery, vascular spine lesion

How to cite this article:
Joshi GK, Krishna K N, Krishna DG, Murthy GK, Herur A, Karnam SV. Dorsal spinal epidural cavernous angioma; A case report. Asian J Neurosurg 2021;16:144-9

How to cite this URL:
Joshi GK, Krishna K N, Krishna DG, Murthy GK, Herur A, Karnam SV. Dorsal spinal epidural cavernous angioma; A case report. Asian J Neurosurg [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 15];16:144-9. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Cavernous angiomas are common lesions of the central nervous system characterized by abnormally dilated blood vessels lined by a thin endothelium. In the spine, a common location is the vertebral bodies. Intradural extramedullary and intramedullary cavernous hemangiomas are less frequent lesions, while purely epidural locations are uncommon.[1] Epidural cavernous angiomas represent 12% of spinal axis cavernous malformations.[2]

The earliest case was reported in 1978 by Decker et al.[3] They are indistinguishable from that of a schwannoma, which is a much more common lesion. Here, we report a case of thoracic epidural cavernous angioma who presented with chronic backache.

  Case Report Top

A 52-year-old man presented with back pain since a month. He had imbalance while walking on an irregular surface. It was not associated with paraparesis or urinary retention. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine showed a lobulated, homogeneously contrast-enhancing lesion at the thoracic D7–D8 epidural region. It was hyperintense on T2-weighted image and isointense on T1-weighted image. Indentation on the dorsal spinal cord was seen. Displacement of the cord is seen anterior and to the left side. No obvious cord signal changes were seen. The lesion shows no extension to neural foramen [Figure 1].
Figure 1: (a) Preoperative magnetic resonance images T1 sagittal showed isointense epidural mass at D7–8 level isointensity on T1-weight sequence. (b) Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging spine T2-weighted image. (c) Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging spine T1-weighted axial image at D7 dorsal spine level. (d) Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging spine T2-weighted axial image. (e) Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging spine T2-weighted image coronal view. (f) Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging with contrast T1-weighted axial view showing homogeneous contrast-enhancing epidural solution at dorsal D7 level pushing cord to left side

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He underwent D7–D9 hemilaminectomy and decompression of extradural lesion. The tumor was extradural, highly vascular, and tightly adherent to the dura mater. There was no extension outside the spinal canal. The tumor was partially removed as it was highly vascular, and hemostasis was achieved with activated thrombin and Surgicel Fibrillar. Postoperatively, he had weakness in right quadriceps muscles which gradually improved over 2 weeks. He was not treated with adjuvant radiotherapy. Histopathology examination of section showed variably sized vessels lined by endothelial cells [Figure 2]. The vessels ramified between lobules of adipose tissue. Vascular endothelial cells are highlighted with CD34 [Figure 3]. A few of the vessels showed fibrin thrombi in the tumor. No mitosis or necrosis was seen. It was reported as hemangioma of the extradural space at the D7–D8 dorsal spine. Postoperative MRI spine performed after a year showed no recurrence of the lesion [Figure 4]. He has not received any postoperative radiotherapy. The patient is asymptomatic 2 years after the operation.
Figure 2: (a) Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging spine T1-weighted image axial view. (b) Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging T2-weighted image sagittal view showing no recurrence. (c) Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging spine axial view after contrast administration - no recurrence seen

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Figure 3: Microphotograph showing closely placed small capillary sized vascular channels along with a few dilated ones ×200. Note the prominent endothelial cells and fibrin thrombus (*)

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Figure 4: CD31 immunohistochemistry highlighting the endothelial cell line capillary channels (×200)

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  Discussion Top

Cavernous angiomas of the spine are benign and are vascular hamartomas representing a dysplasia of the vessel-forming mesoderm. Harrison et al. postulated that primordial vessels may lose their capacity to differentiate, resulting in a cavernous malformation.[4]

Microscopically, cavernous malformations are composed of closely opposed sinusoidal vascular spaces. The walls consist of an innermost single layer of endothelial cells surrounded by adipose tissue; elastic fibers or smooth muscle cells are absent.[5]

We reviewed the literature of 46 case reports (including our case). The first case we found was reported by Decker et al. in 1978 [Table 1].
Table 1: Review of literature

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The average age of patients was 50 years. The youngest was 13 years old and eldest was 79 years old. There were 27 males and 19 females with slight male dominance.

Clinical symptoms were suggestive of the spinal cord or nerve root compression. Pain was the most common symptom. Cases presented as neck pain, interscapular pain, or back pain depending on the location of the lesion. They were also associated with numbness and radicular pain along the dermatomes of involved roots. Twenty cases presented with spastic paraparesis and urinary frequency or retention.

Thoracic spinal cord was the most common location. In 27 cases, thoracic spinal cord was involved. In our case, dorsal D7 and 8 epidural space was involved. The cervical spine was involved in 6 cases. The lumbar spine was involved in 11 cases. The sacral epidural space was involved in 1 case.

Radiological features

MRI finding showed an epidural lesion of varying sizes. It is hyperintense on T2-weighted image and isointense on T1-weighted image. Homogeneous contrast enhancement was seen with gadolinium administration. The lesion was completely extradural but tightly adherent to the dura mater. Hemorrhage was seen only in one case reported by Khalatbar et al.[21]

Dumbbell-shaped, extraforaminal extension was seen in more than 10 cases. These features resemble MRI findings of schwannoma.[23] Therefore, it is difficult to diagnose on radiological imaging alone.


All patients underwent surgery either laminotomy or laminectomy. The tumor was extradural, purple or mulberry like, soft, and highly vascular. All surgeries were planned except few. An emergency surgery was performed for hemorrhage into the lesion in one case reported by Khalatbar et al. Li et al. reported four cases where surgery was done on an emergency basis for sudden onset of paraparesis and urinary retention. The pathology for sudden neurological deterioration was explained by Lee et al.

Cavernous angiomas do not grow by mitotic activity but have the propensity to enlarge by thrombosis and bleeding, causing a spectrum of neurological syndromes ranging from radiculopathy to sudden spinal cord dysfunction.[24]

From the surgical point of view, it is very important to understand that the extra-axial cavernous angiomas behave like tumors and not like vascular malformations.[19]

Surgical decompression is the mainstay of treatment. Radiotherapy was not given as a primary mode of treatment. Only in two cases, adjuvant radiotherapy was given few months after surgery as symptoms persisted or worsened (reported by Sohn et al. and Padovani et al.).

Fukushima et al. reported recurrence of the lesion in his case. He operated thrice over a period of two decades.


Spinal epidural angioma has a favorable outcome with total or subtotal removal. Complete recovery was noted in 19 patients. Partial recovery was seen in 8 patients. Our case had right knee extensor weakness in the postoperative period. He recovered within 2 weeks with no neurological deficits.

  Conclusion Top

This observation and a review of the literature highlights that spinal epidural cavernous angioma presents as compressive spinal cord pathology with symptoms of backache, weakness in legs, difficulty in walking, or retention of urine. MRI spine with contrast helps in preoperative diagnosis of angioma. It may present with sudden neurological deficits due to hemorrhage which warrants emergency decompression. Surgical decompression is the mainstay of treatment. There is no role of adjuvant radiotherapy. As the tumor is highly vascular, hemostatic agents are required during surgery. The tumor may extend into paravertebral space through the intervertebral canal. This may require additional thoracotomy for tumor removal. Clinical recovery is complete after surgery in most of the cases.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Lanotte M, Massaro F, Faccani G, Forni M, Valentini MC. Dumbbell-shaped spinal epidural cavernous angioma. Case report. Ital J Neurol Sci 1994;15:429-32.  Back to cited text no. 1
Singh RV, Suys S, Campbell DA, Broome JC. Spinal extradural cavernous angioma. Br J Neurosurg 1993;7:79-82.  Back to cited text no. 2
Decker RE, San Augustin W, Epstein JA. Spinal epidural venous angioma causing foraminal enlargement and erosion of vertebral body. Case report. J Neurosurg 1978;49:605-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
Harrison MJ, Eisenberg MB, Ullman JS, Oppenheim JS, Camins MB, Post KD. Symptomatic cavernous malformations a ecting the spine and spinal cord. Neurosurgery 1995;37:195-204.  Back to cited text no. 4
McCormick WF. The pathology of vascular (“arteriovenous”) malformations. J Neurosurg 1966;24:807-16.  Back to cited text no. 5
Minh NH. Cervicothoracic spinal epidural cavernous hemangioma: Case report and review of the literature. Surgical Neurol 2005;64:83-5.  Back to cited text no. 6
Yunoki M, Suzuki K, Uneda A, Yoshino K. A case of dumbbell-shaped epidural cavernous angioma in the lumbar spine. Surg Neurol Int 2015;6:S309-12.  Back to cited text no. 7
Uchida K, Yayama T, Nakajima H, Hirai T, Kobayashi S, Chen K, et al. Microsurgical resection of cavernous haemangioma around the thoracic neuroforamen: A case report. J Orthop Surg (Hong Kong) 2010;18:370-3.  Back to cited text no. 8
Talacchi A, Spinnato S, Alessandrini F, Iuzzolino P, Bricolo A. Radiologic and surgical aspects of pure spinal epidural cavernous angiomas. Report on 5 cases and review of the literature. Surg Neurol 1999;52:198-203.  Back to cited text no. 9
Rovira A, Rovira A, Capellades J, Zauner M, Bella R, Rovira M. Lumbar extradural hemangiomas: Report of three cases. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 1999;20:27-31.  Back to cited text no. 10
Padovani R, Tognetti F, Proietti D, Pozzati E, Servadei F. Extrathecal cavernous hemangioma. Surg Neurol 1982;18:463-5.  Back to cited text no. 11
Morioka T, Nakagaki H, Matsushima T, Hasuo K. Dumbbell-shaped spinal epidural cavernous angioma. Surg Neurol 1986;25:142-4.  Back to cited text no. 12
Decker Re, San Augustin W, Epstein Ja. Spinal epidural venous angioma causing foraminal enlargement and erosion of vertebral body. Case Report. J Neurosurg 1978;49:605–606.  Back to cited text no. 13
Franz K, Lesoin F, Leys D, Krivosic I, Jomin M. Spinal epidural dumbbell-shaped cavernous angioma. Rev Neurol (Paris) 1987;143:298-300.  Back to cited text no. 14
Li TY, Xu YL, Yang J, Wang J, Wang GH. Primary spinal epidural cavernous hemangioma: Clinical features and surgical outcome in 14 cases. J Neurosurg Spine 2015;22:39-46.  Back to cited text no. 15
Shukla D, Rao VS, Rajesh A, Uppin MS, Purohit AK. Lumbar extradural dumbbell cavernous hemangioma: A rare lesion. J Neurosci Rural Pract 2013;4:207-9.  Back to cited text no. 16
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Haimes AB, Krol G. Dumbbell-shaped spinal cavernous hemangioma: A case report. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 1991;12:1021-2.  Back to cited text no. 17
Fukushima M, Nabeshima Y, Shimazaki K, Hirohata K. Dumbbell-shaped spinal extradural hemangioma. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg 1987;106:394-6.  Back to cited text no. 18
Saringer W, Nöbauer I, Haberler C, Ungersböck K. Extraforaminal, thoracic, epidural cavernous haemangioma: Case report with analysis of magnetic resonance imaging characteristics and review of the literature. Acta Neurochir (Wien) 2001;143:1293-7.  Back to cited text no. 19
Khalatbari MR, Abbassioun K, Amirjmshidi A. Solitary spinal epidural cavernous angioma: Report of nine surgically treated cases and review of the literature. Eur Spine J 2013;22:542-7.  Back to cited text no. 20
Jeong WJ, Choi I, Seong HY, Roh SW. Thoracic extradural cavernous hemangioma Mimicking a Dumbbell-Shaped Tumor. J Korean Neurosurg Soc 2015;58:72-5.  Back to cited text no. 21
Sohn MJ, Lee DJ, Jeon SR, Khang SK. Spinal radiosurgical treatment for thoracic epidural cavernous hemangioma presenting as radiculomyelopathy: Technical case report. Neurosurgery 2009;64:E1202-3.  Back to cited text no. 22
Lee JP, Wang AD, Wai YY, Ho YS. Spinal extradural cavernous hemangioma. Surg Neurol 1990;34:345-51.  Back to cited text no. 23
Isoda H, Takahashi M, Mochizuki T, Ramsey RG, Masui T, Takehara Y, et al. MRI of dumbbell-shaped spinal tumors. J Comput Assist Tomogr 1996;20:573-82.  Back to cited text no. 24


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]

  [Table 1]


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