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What is a CCM disorder? The brain disorder from Netflix ‘Away’



A space thriller really only on its surface, Netflix path A good start into the soapy stratosphere of family, relationships, and medical drama – with just enough terminal illness and hospital trips to keep you worried for 10 hours. The main cause of this dramatic stress is likely Matt’s (Josh Charles) brain disease – cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM) – which becomes the linchpin of the family drama and daughter Lexi (Talitha Bateman) becomes an incarnation of the pedantry of her mother and Emma (Hilary Swank) into the most interviewed space commander in space travel history. (Relax guys. Hasn̵

7;t she trained for this mission for 20 years?)

The drama first resolves when Matt suffers a stroke. He is taken to the hospital and wakes up partially paralyzed. In the absence of a helpful chart or practical explanation behind the scenes to explain CCM, all we know from the show is that Matt had this all his life, the illness disqualified him from space travel, and things got worse.

What is CCM?

Cerebral cavernous malformations are a brain disease that affects an estimated 1 in 200 people. The “cavern” refers to raspberry-shaped blood vessels – “caverns” – that form in the brain. The caverns (also known as “lesions”) can be up to an inch in size and cause damage if they leak. Leaks can cause brain bleeding, seizures, and paralysis. The risk for this in patients with CCM is lifelong.

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The University of Chicago Medical Center notes that these lesions can change in size and that most patients with CCM do not become symptomatic until adulthood. (Some patients with CCM may never show symptoms.) CCM is sometimes detected during unrelated brain imaging.

While medication can relieve some CCM symptoms, such as headaches and seizures, the disease is not yet cured. If the lesions bleed, surgery may be needed.

Is CCM genetic?

One of the many dramatic remedies of the season is Lexi’s own predisposition to CCM: will she develop the disease and does she want to know? While some cases of CCM are not inherited, most are passed down genetically. Lexi is right to be concerned that one parent’s children with CCM have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the disease.

For more information on CCM, including resources and opportunities to support patients and research, visit the Angioma Alliance.

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