Different surgical approaches to the brain stem with results of excision of brain stem cavernous malformations are reported. Nine patients with brain stem cavernous malformations were operated with six different approaches. The patients were evaluated neurologically, and by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination. All patients had at least one and often more episodes of haemorrhage. Seven patients underwent the total removal of the malformation, without recurrence. One patient with a large medullary cavernoma had recurrence, but without further growth. One patient with a large pontomesencephalic malformation and partial resection, suffered rebleeding due to residual cavernoma. The mean follow-up period was 49 months (range 3-112). The results of surgery were excellent or good in eight patients, and poor (worsening) in one. It is concluded that surgical resection is recommended for the cavernous malformations of the brain stem which are symptomatic, have bled or are growing, and are approachable through one of the pial surfaces of the brain stem. Different skull base approaches are useful for this procedure. Radiosurgery is not recommended in such cases.