Vascular Malformations and Hemangiomas

Vascular malformations and hemangiomas are abnormal growths of blood vessels that develop before birth. Some can be seen easily and some may remain hidden under the skin's surface. Most are benign, but some can cause problems later in life.

The cause of hemangiomas and vascular malformations often isn’t known. They may be passed on (inherited) in some families.

Depending on where your child’s growth is located, it may cause physical problems. Your child may have trouble seeing or moving part of his or her body. These conditions can be life-threatening if they’re large or affect your child’s airway or another organ. In some cases, a team of specialists may be needed for treatment.

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. You should call your child’s health care provider if your child’s hemangioma or vascular malformation causes issues. These include bleeding or trouble with feeding or breathing.

Vascular malformations and hemangiomas that are large and visible also can cause psychological and social issues. Support groups can help you, your child, and your family.

Why Choose Cooper to Treat Vascular Malformations and Hemangiomas

The Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper is committed to excellence in education, research, and high-quality, safe care for pediatric patients and their families.  As the only state-designated acute care children’s hospital in South Jersey, Cooper provides exceptional pediatric primary care and comprehensive specialty care services for every patient, every day, in a patient- and family-centered environment.

You can expect:

  • Complete care: For complex medical or surgical needs, Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper employs board-certified experts in 27 pediatric subspecialties. 
  • Surgical expertise: When your child needs surgery, safety is your top concern. Our team includes pediatric surgeons, pediatric anesthesiologists, and other subspecialists, many of them fellowship-trained in their areas of expertise. This advanced training means our experts are equipped to perform a full range of surgical procedures on children of all ages, including newborns.
  • Advanced diagnostic and treatment options: Because of our affiliation with the Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, your child will benefit from the latest advances in medical care. Our specialists stay up-to-date with the latest tools and strategies, including new medications and minimally invasive surgical procedures.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Vascular Malformations 

Vascular malformations are present at birth but may not be seen for weeks or sometimes years after birth. They don't shrink, but instead grow slowly throughout life. Many of them require some form of treatment.

There are five types of vascular malformations:

  • Port wine stains (red or purple in color)
  • Venous malformations
  • Lymphatic malformations
  • Arteriovenous malformations
  • Mixed malformations, a combination of any of the other types

Treatment for vascular malformations depends on the type of malformation. If your child has a large or life-threatening growth, he or she may need a team of doctors. These can include plastic surgeons, skin doctors (dermatologists), eye doctors (ophthalmologists), and other specialists. Your child may need a combination of treatments. These may include:

  • Laser therapy. This is used for port wine stains.
  • Injection into the vascular malformation. This is used for arterial malformations.
  • Injection of a clotting (sclerosing) medicine. This is used for venous malformations.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Hemangioma

Hemangiomas, also known as birthmarks, are the most common type of noncancerous (benign) skin growths. While most hemangiomas occur in the head or neck area, some occur elsewhere where in the skin, mucous membranes, or internal organs. 

Some hemangiomas may be seen at birth while others become noticeable in the first few weeks of life. They normally start as faint, red marks that grow very fast during the first three to five months. After that, they become smaller and lighter in color. Half disappear by the age of 5 and the most are gone by age 10. About half of children whose hemangiomas disappear will still have skin issues such as scarring, skin discoloration, and tissue wasting (atrophy).

Treatment for hemangiomas depends on their size, location, and how severe they are. Small hemangiomas often shrink on their own. These usually don’t need treatment.

Other hemangiomas need to be treated. Those on the head and neck, near the eyes, or near the airway almost always require treatment by a craniofacial doctor. This is a specialist in diagnosing and treating head and face problems. Any hemngioma that bleeds uncontrollably also needs to be treated. Make sure your child’s doctor has experience with hemangiomas.

Your child’s healthcare provider may suggest the following:  

  • Steroid medicines
  • Injection into the hemangioma (blood vessel embolization)
  • Laser or surgical removal

Make an Appointment With a Hemangioma and Vascular Malformation Expert at Cooper

To learn more about the services available for treating vascular malformations and hemangiomas at Cooper or to request an appointment, please call 800.8.COOPER (800.826.6737)