Vascular Malformations and Hemangiomas

Vascular Malformations and Hemangiomas

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Vascular anomalies include a wide array of abnormal clusters of blood and/or lymph vessels that can be present at birth but can cause concern at any age. Depending on their type, location, and size, they can be as simple as benign growths. In extreme cases, they can be life-threatening. Duke's team of specialists accurately diagnoses vascular malformations and provides the full range of care to children and adults. We develop a comprehensive treatment plan that meets your individual needs.

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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

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

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

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

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.

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Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.


Ultrasound, X-rays, CT, and MRI

May be used to determine the type and location of the vascular malformation. 

DCE-MRI Scanning

We are one of the few centers to use a type of advanced imaging technology called DCE-MRI. It uses a contrast dye to capture accurate images of blood flow in affected tissue.


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Why Choose Duke

Team of Specialists
Our team includes vascular surgeons; dermatologists; ear, nose, and throat specialists; orthopaedic surgeons; interventional radiologists; hematologists; ophthalmologists; plastic surgeons; and general surgeons. Our experts undergo advanced training and certification in their specialties and have the experience to ensure your child receives the care and treatment he or she needs.

Our Expertise
Our expertise in complex cases and powerful imaging technology allow us to make clear, accurate recommendations.

Convenient Treatment for Your Child
We make every effort to make your visits for treatment convenient. A dedicated patient representative keeps your family informed during the entire process.

Duke University Hospital is nationally ranked in 10 adult specialties
Consistently Ranked Among the Nation’s Best Hospitals
In addition, Duke University Hospital is proud to be named the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 10 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.
Reviewed: 02/14/2018