What is a vascular malformation?

Vascular malformation is a general term for congenital vascular anomalies involving only veins, only lymph vessels, both arteries and veins or both veins and lymph vessels.

These can affect any body parts, more commonly seen affecting hands, legs, face, abdomen, brain, and spine.

  • Only veins: Venous malformations (VM)
  • Only lymph vessels: Lymphatic malformations (LM)
  • Arteries directly connected to veins without any capillaries in between: Arteriovenous malformations (AVM)
  • Both veins and lymphatic vessels: Venolymphatic malformations (VLM)

Why do these vascular malformations occur?

Vascular malformations result from developmental errors in forming of vascular channels and are present at birth, although some are not obvious for several years. They remain throughout life and slowly grow proportionately as the child grows; some may expand due to trauma or infection.

What are the signs and symptoms of vascular malformations?

Vascular malformations can cause disfigurement, pain, troublesome swelling, bleeding, and infection. Some are associated with growth abnormalities in the affected body part.

How are these malformations treated?

Although surgery can be helpful, it is sometimes difficult for surgeons to altogether remove vascular malformations, which will return if not completely removed. Interventional radiologists, who treat patients with image-guided procedures use a nonsurgical method to stop blood or lymph flow into the malformation. Embolization is used to treat vascular malformations.

AVMs and hemangiomas can be closed by inserting a tiny plastic tubing no larger than a pencil point into the malformation's feeding artery. This can be accomplished with no incisions or stitches and only mild sedation. The malformation is then filled with medical glue, alcohol, or small beads until it no longer has blood flowing through it. Platinum coils are used in some AVMs to block flow through the feeding artery to the malformation.

The VMs and LMs are closed completely by injecting alcohol into the venous blood or lymph sacs until they collapse and no longer fill.

What is the recovery time for the procedure?

A one-night hospital stay is all that is required to treat arteriovenous malformations. For one to three days usually there is minor discomfort.

The venous and lymphatic malformations require multiple treatment sessions depending on the size and vascularity. These malformations swell after treatment with alcohol. The swelling and pain may last for 3-5 days. During this time, we provide patients with pain and swelling medication. It may take four to six weeks for these malformations to completely shrink.

How new is this technique?

For the past 30 years, embolization techniques have been widely used all over the world. They have been in use for many years and have proven to be invaluable in the treatment of vascular malformations, either alone or as a preoperative procedure in the case of large ones for cosmetic purposes.

What is the best age to have treatment?

We can treat patients of any age, from newborn to adult. The best age for treatment is determined by the specific vascular malformation and its symptoms and is best tailored to each individual.

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