Vascular malformations are clusters of abnormal blood vessels, present from birth, and ranging from small and asymptomatic, to very extensive and potentially life or limb threatening. They may present as areas of skin discolouration (birthmarks) or swellings or both. For most people, in the absence of symptoms or problems no treatment is necessary.
In the absence of symptoms, for more benign malformations diagnosis may be made by an experienced doctor without the need for investigations. However, as these abnormalities are rare and may present in unusual ways, some patients consult with several doctors before a diagnosis is reached. Investigations including ultrasound scans, MRI scans and Angiograms are often required if treatment is being considered.
Some vascular malformations can be treated safely with minimal risk of complications, however, the malformations that cause most problems, that usually cause symptoms and that lead to significant health problems, are also usually the most difficult to treat. Many different approaches to treatment including surgery and tying off ‘feeder’ blood vessels have been used over the year with little success. Currently recommended treatment strategies involve minimally invasive techniques and the expertise of a group of doctors with a special interest in treating these difficult problems.