What is a vascular malformation?

A vascular malformation is present at birth. It can be made up of arteries, veins, capillaries, or lymphatic vessels or any combination of those vessels.  A very common type of vascular malformation is capillary malformation or port wine stain.

What is the difference between a vascular malformation and a hemangioma?

Vascular malformations are present at birth and enlarge proportionately with the growth of the child. They do not become smaller or lighter spontaneously and may become more apparent as the child grows.

Most hemangiomas are usually not present at birth or are very faint red marks. However, there are rare cases of congenital hemangiomas. Shortly after birth, they grow rapidly – often faster than the child’s growth. Over time, they become smaller (involute) and lighter in color. The process of involution may take several years.

What causes vascular malformations?

The cause for vascular malformations is usually sporadic and occurs by chance. There are several different theories about why, but no definitive explanation at this time. The lesions appear to be due to differences in blood vessel development. Genes may play a role in the occurrence of these lesions. Vascular malformations may occur in association with other physical findings.

What should I do if my child has a vascular malformation?

It is best to seek the care of a specialist to help guide you and your child’s primary care physician in your child’s care.

Treatment for Vascular Malformations

Treatment for vascular malformations depends upon the type of the malformation. Each type of malformation is treated differently. Laser therapy is usually effective for capillary malformations or port wine stains, though multiple treatments are required. Arterial malformations are often treated by embolization (blood flow into malformation is blocked by injecting material near the lesion). Venous malformations are usually treated by direct injection of a sclerosing (clotting) medication which causes clotting of the channels. Most often, a combination of these various treatments is used for effective management of the lesion. Surgery may be used also.