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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a vascular anomaly?


A vascular anomaly is a group of blood vessel disorders that that may cause pain, swelling, bleeding, or visible disfigurement.


What causes vascular anomalies?


Some vascular anomalies are caused by abnormalities in specific genes. Others do not have a known cause.


Who gets vascular anomalies?


Anyone can get vascular anomalies. They may be present at birth or grow over time. In some cases, they do not become visible or symptomatic until months or years later. Some vascular anomalies syndromes may run in families.


How is a diagnosis made?


Making a proper diagnosis is required to determine the appropriate treatment options. This requires a detailed clinical history and examination. Often, imaging such as ultrasound or MRI may be needed for confirmation. Sometimes a biopsy is performed to confirm a diagnosis.


Do vascular anomalies cause pain?


Often vascular anomalies are not painful, although some specific types may be. In addition to the potential for causing pain, some may cause functional problems if they grow very large or become infected.


What is a vascular malformation?


A vascular malformation is made up of arteries, veins, capillaries, or lymphatic vessels. There are several different types of malformations and they are named according to which type of blood vessel is predominantly affected.


What is a hemangioma?


A hemangioma is a type of birthmark caused by an abnormal buildup of small blood vessels (capillaries) on or under the surface of the skin. A may look like a red wine- or strawberry-colored birthmark and may protrude from the skin. They are usually present at birth, or shortly after birth. Hemangiomas do not appear as a new spot in an adult.


Are Port-Wine stains and hemangiomas the same thing?


No. A Port-Wine stain is a capillary malformation, while a hemangioma is considered a vascular "tumor." The expected natural history is different between these two entities, and the treatments may also be different.


Will a hemangioma go away?


Infantile hemangiomas are likely to decrease in size over time. Sometimes the process leaves behind areas of residual color difference or excess tissue that may require treatment. Congenital hemangiomas are typically full size at birth and may or may not resolve completely.


Are vascular anomalies ever dangerous?


If a hemangioma or vascular malformation is very large, affects the airway or lungs, or bleeds uncontrollably it could be life-threatening.


Is surgery the only way to treat a vascular anomaly?


No. While surgical removal might be necessary, topical or oral medications, blockage of the blood vessels, or laser treatment may be used.