Vascular anomalies are abnormal formations or growths of the vascular system, including capillaries, arteries, veins and lymphatic vessels.

When your child is diagnosed with a vascular anomaly, you can trust the Children's Health specialists at University of Missouri Children’s Hospital who are experienced in treating children with these conditions and will work with you and your family through every step of the treatment process. 

Treatment for babies with vascular anomalies

The vast majority of hemangiomas are not treated in any way. Occasionally, after they have regressed, a minor surgical procedure may be done to remove any excess skin or fibro-fatty tissue left behind. In some cases, when the hemangioma is growing very rapidly, your child may need steroids to slow the growth. Surgical removal of a hemangioma is rarely necessary.

At MU Health Care, we treat most vascular malformations with observation or with the use of compression garments to prevent swelling. Several different treatment options are available for the different types of vascular malformations, including:

  • Embolization. This treatment involves blocking off the supply of blood to the malformation.
  • Sclerotherapy. This treatment involves an injection of a chemical substance directly into the malformation to shrink it.
  • Surgery. We may use surgery to reduce the size of the malformation or, in some cases, to remove the malformation altogether.

Because there are so many types of vascular malformations, we work with you to personalize your child’s treatment plan.

Frequently asked questions about vascular anomalies

Check out the answers to commonly asked questions about this condition.

Do vascular anomalies cause my baby any pain?

Most of the time, these anomalies are not painful. However, they may be painful if they grow to a large size or if the overlying skin becomes ulcerated. 

What are the different types of vascular anomalies?

Vascular anomalies are broadly categorized as hemangiomas or vascular malformations:

  • Hemangiomas. These are classically bright red and firm while they are growing, although the color may be more bluish if the hemangioma is in the deeper tissues rather than right beneath the skin. As they gradually regress, their color changes to a gray-purple and they become softer. Hemangiomas may disappear completely or leave behind some excess skin and fibro-fatty tissue after they have resolved. Approximately 80 percent of hemangiomas are solitary lesions, while in 20 percent of cases there is more than one hemangioma present.
  • Vascular malformations. These may have a variety of appearances depending on the exact composition of the malformation (capillary, arterial, venous, lymphatic or combined). Some only involve the skin, while others are very extensive and may involve deep structures and even the internal organs and bones.

Who gets vascular anomalies?

Many children have vascular anomalies.

  • Hemangiomas occur in 2.6 percent of newborns and in 12 percent of Caucasian children by one year of age. They are more common in very small, premature babies and girls are affected three times more often than boys. They are more common in Caucasians than in other racial or ethnic groups.
  • Vascular malformations occur equally in boys and girls, and there seems to be no racial tendency.
  • Hemangiomas and vascular malformations are not inherited or genetic conditions.

What causes vascular anomalies?

Researchers have not yet pinpointed the exact cause of these anomalies.

What are the main issues related to hemangiomas?

Most hemangiomas cause no problems at all. However, some children with hemangiomas will have problems such as ulceration of the skin and damage to surrounding tissues. 

Hemangiomas in the head and neck region can grow large enough to obstruct or interfere with your child’s:

  • Breathing
  • Feeding
  • Hearing
  • Vision

In rare cases, if your child has very large or multiple hemangiomas, he or she may have bleeding issues or cardiac/circulatory problems.

What are the main issues related to vascular malformations?

Vascular malformations are so varied that it is difficult to generalize about them. Many of these lesions do not cause any problems. However, depending on the type of lesion, its size, location, and composition, there may be various problems such as:

  • Distortion of surrounding tissues including bones, bleeding and circulatory problems
  • Limitation of function (for example, if the malformation is in the hand)
  • Pain

What specialists will be involved in my baby’s care?

Our multidisciplinary treatment team includes:

  • Dermatologists
  • General surgeons 
  • Interventional radiologists
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat doctors)
  • Plastic surgeon