Vascular anomalies are malformations of the vessels that carry blood or lymph around the body and could result from improper development of these vessels. Vascular anomalies of the head and neck regions make up to 60% of the total vascular anomalies seen in children. Incidences show that one in every 22 children is affected by one or the other form of these aberrations. They present in two forms – as vascular tumors or as vascular malformations, and can be differentiated based on their history and histology. But whatever the case, they both cause physical as well as psychological distress to the child as well as their parents.

Parents also need to realize that early assessment of issues pertaining to age of onset of the vascular anomaly, its growth rate, location as well as psychological effects allow for more accurate monitoring and management of these malformations. When there is a doubt about the clinical presentation of these anomalies, your child maybe referred to a specialist in disciplines like pediatrics, dermatology, orthopedics, oncology, neurosurgery, craniofacial surgery, plastic surgery, otorhinolaryngology, physiotherapy, etc, based on the anatomical location of the lesions.

Some of the commonly seen vascular anomalies in children include the following:

  • Birthmarks
  • Hemangiomas
  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVM)
  • Venous malformations
  • Lymphatic malformations
  • Port wine stains
  • Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT)
  • Lymphedema
  • Vascular tumors

There are numerous other forms of these aberrations and are usually known by the blood vessel they affect. Most of these anomalies including hemangiomas such as port wine stains, salmon patch and strawberry are all forms of birthmarks as they present from birth, usually as light pink patches that grow over the first 6-12 months of life. However, a hemangioma involutes with the years, getting smaller with increasing age.

Depending on where these hemangioms or vascular malformations are located, there may be problems with breathing or feeding, uncontrolled bleeding, vision impairment, growth disturbances, etc. For diagnostic purposes, when histology doesn’t help, imaging with MRI or ultrasound can offer fine details about soft tissues and their delineation of blood vessel architecture and flow patterns.

Treatment is usually by conservative management and may include therapy with steroids and other drugs. Only in a few rare cases is invasive endovascular or surgical intervention required. Other options include interventional radiology and laser therapy. Laser therapy is particularly effective on capillary malformations which tend to be flat – such as port wine stains. In some rare cases, a combination of these therapies is employed in a step-wise, multi-staged treatment plan.

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The information provided in Dr. Dixit's answer is for educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice. The information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with a qualified health professional who may be familiar with your individual medical needs.