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What Are Vascular Malformations ?

Vascular malformations are abnormal clusters of blood vessels that occur during fetal development.

Although these lesions are always present at birth, they may not be visible until weeks or even years after birth. These lesions will typically grow in proportion to the growth of the child.

While they sometimes grow quite rapidly, their growth is usually gradual and steady during the first year of life. Without treatment, a vascular malformation will not diminish or disappear.

Symptoms of Vascular malformations of the brain

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Abnormal arteries in the brain
  • Abnormal veins in the brain
  • Enlarged blood-filled spaces in the brain

How Are Vascular Malformations Diagnosed ?

These lesions are diagnosed by both physical examination and by using a number of imaging techniques, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasonography. In some cases, an angiogram is needed to assist in detailed treatment planning.

These tests are briefly described below :

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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-This technique uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce three-dimensional images of the inside of the body. Since the child must lie still for up to 1 hour, sedation is frequently given through an intravenous catheter (a small needle placed in the arm or foot). Some younger children may require general anesthesia.

Ultrasonography - This technique uses sound waves to take pictures of the inside of the body. Sedation is not required for this test.

Angiogram - This is a study of the blood vessels that uses a special X-ray machine. A dye is injected into the bloodstream through a tube which is placed in an artery in the leg. This allows the doctor to see the blood vessels and take X-rays. An angiogram is done either with sedation or under general anesthesia.

How Are Vascular Malformations Managed ?

Management of vascular malformations is dependent upon the type and location of the malformation as well as its depth. Observation and the use of supportive treatments (e.g., compression garments and drug therapy) are sometimes recommended. For lesions that are only superficial, laser therapy is commonly used. Lesions that are deep may, however, require surgical removal and other therapies such as sclerotherapy. While surgery is complex and was previously associated with the risk of blood loss, advances in technology now enable removal to be more safely performed. The management of combined vascular lesions is far more complex.

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