Treating Vascular Abnormalities and Hemangiomas
Identifying the type of vascular abnormality is the first step. Because treatment varies drastically, it is important that you or your child be seen by a team of experts who are experienced in treating all types of vascular abnormalities.
Hemangiomas are the most common type of vascular tumor. The benign growth of blood vessels is often seen in young infants and can range in size from very small to extremely large. While most decrease in size on their own, hemangiomas that are present in internal organs; interfere with vital functions such as vision, feeding, or breathing; or cause frequent bleeding or significant cosmetic deformity need to be treated. The treatment depends on the exact size and location on the body.
Vascular malformations are an abnormally formed combination of capillaries, veins, arteries, or lymphatic vessels. They can appear anywhere on the body and, depending on the type, can cause pain; frequent, uncontrolled bleeding; deformities; and an increased risk of blood clots.
- Vascular malformations in the brain may trigger headaches or seizures.
- Vascular malformations in the airway can cause speech disabilities or breathing concerns.
- Vascular malformations in the eyes can cause vision problems.
- Vascular malformations in the intestines can cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
Capillary Malformation or Port-Wine Stain
Capillary malformation or port-wine stain is a red or purple flat area seen on the skin at birth that can form anywhere on the body. They can become darker and thicker as a person ages. In rare cases, port-wine stains can be a sign of a serious neurological disorder. Repeated treatments with a laser may lighten large, dark port-wine stains.
Venous malformation is a collection of veins that can occur anywhere on the body. Sometimes these areas can develop swelling and pain, or even bleed. Monitoring will be important. Treatment can include compression garments, anticoagulation, sclerotherapy, and surgical management. Venous malformations sometimes do not cause symptoms until adolescence because growth can be triggered by hormonal changes associated with puberty. Venous malformations are often lifelong issues that require comprehensive team care.
Arteriovenous malformations are abnormal connections between arteries and veins. They require monitoring and early treatment, as they usually grow throughout a person’s life.
Lymphatic malformations occur when lymphatic vessels form abnormally during fetal development. They often appear as either small, clear blisters on the skin that do not go away, or very large swellings, especially of the neck. They typically form in the head or neck area. The airway can be involved if the lesion is in the neck and can be life-threatening.
Lymphatic malformations that put your child at risk for permanent disfigurement or affect his or her physical, emotional, and social well-being may be treated with drug therapy, laser treatment, or sclerotherapy -- a non-surgical treatment that involves the injection of a chemical under ultrasound and X-ray guidance -- to shrink the malformation. Surgery may also be recommended to remove the malformation.