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Alternative Names Return to topAmyloidosis - cerebral; CAA
Definition Return to top
Cerebral amyloid angiopathy is a neurological condition in which amyloid protein builds up on the walls of the arteries in the brain. The condition increases one's risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
Causes Return to top
The cause of cerebral amyloid angiopathy is unknown. Persons with this condition have deposits of amyloid protein in the walls of the brain arteries. The protein is usually not deposited anywhere else in the body.
The major risk factor is increasing age. The rate of the condition is much greater in those older than 60.
Symptoms Return to top
Cerebral amyloid angiopathy can cause bleeding into the brain, usually in the outer parts of the brain, called the lobes, and not the deep areas. Symptoms occur because bleeding in the brain harms brain tissue. If there is a lot of bleeding, immediate symptoms occur and resemble a stroke. Such symptoms include:
Some bleeds are very small and occur in different parts of the brain over many months. Symptoms can include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Cerebral amyloid angiopathy is difficult to diagnose until after death, when a biopsy of the blood vessels of the brain can be done.
A physical exam can be relatively normal if you have a small bleed, but you may show some brain function changes. Your symptoms and the the results of your physical exam and any imaging tests may cause your doctor to suspect this problem.
A CT scan or MRI of the head may show:
Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) of the brain can help with the diagnosis of large bleeds and may be used to rule out arteriovenous malformation or aneurysm as the cause of the bleed.
Treatment Return to top
There is no known effective treatment. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. In some cases, rehabilitation is needed for weakness or clumsiness. This can include physical, occupational, or speech therapy.
Occasionally, some patients may benefit from medications that help improve memory, such as those used to treat Alzheimer's disease.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The disorder slowly gets worse but varies from person to person.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have a sudden loss of movement, sensation, vision, or speech.
References Return to top
Kinnecom C, Lev MH, Wendell L, et al. Course of cerebral amyloid angiopathy-related inflammation. Neurology. 2007 Apr 24;68(17):1411-6.Update Date: 9/16/2008 Updated by: Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.