Doctors fight against diseases and disorders by finding effective treatments. One important step in finding the best treatment for a disorder is studying its epidemiology. This means figuring out who gets the disorder: Is it hereditary? Are there certain risk factors associated with it? Is it more likely to show up in some ethnic groups?
Columbia neurosurgery resident Dr. Hannah Goldstein has taken on the problem of epidemiology for a rare vascular (blood vessel) disorder called cavernous malformation. She’s used her research findings to write a chapter, “Epidemiology of Cavernous Malformations,” for a new textbook titled “Cavernous and Arteriovenous Malformations.”
“Cavernous malformation” sounds like a large, empty space you might find in a mountain range with caves—not in the brain or spinal cord. In fact, cavernous malformations aren’t “caverns” at all, but clusters of abnormal, tiny blood vessels and larger, thin-walled vessels filled with blood.
Cavernous malformations make up 5 to 15 percent of all blood vessel abnormalities, but they often cause no symptoms and don’t show up on angiograms. This means they’re often not diagnosed until they cause a problem in the brain or spinal cord.
Dr. Goldstein’s research examines data on how often cavernous malformations occur in the general population; where the disorder is found among various regional and ethnic groups; and how often heredity seems to play a part. This information can help doctors understand who is at risk of cavernous malformation, and where to watch out for it.
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