Moya moya is a Japanese term literally meaning "puff of smoke." This term refers to the development of an abnormal network of small blood vessels at the base of the brain that resemble little wisps of smoke on imaging studies like cerebral angiography. The development of these small blood vessels is seen in association with the sudden occlusion of one or both carotid arteries (major arteries carrying blood to the brain) as they enter the skull. These small blood vessels are thought to provide an alternative route for blood to reach the brain. This abnormal pattern of blood flow puts patients at risk for strokes and brain hemorrhages.
The cause of moya moya disease is not well understood. It is more common in Japan than the United States, but it is unclear is this is due to environment or genetics. Moya moya disease has been seen in association with a variety of genetic conditions such as: tuberous sclerosis, sickle cell anemia, neurofibromatosis, fibromuscular dysplasia and Down's syndrome. It is also seen in children who have received radiation to treat some types of brain tumors.
Moya moya disease is typically encountered in two groups of patients:
Since the primary problem with moya moya disease is impaired blood flow to the brain, the treatment centers around restoring cerebral blood flow. One method of restoring blood flow is to perform an intracranial-extracranial bypass procedure. Other methods of improving blood flow, such as encephalomyosynagiosis (EMS) or encephaloduroarteriosynangiosis (EDAS), involve placing a layer of muscle or scalp on the surface of the brain, helping to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels in the brain over time.