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Vascular Malformations in Children: What Parents Should Know

June 17, 2024

Poster for video Vascular Malformations in Children

A teenager named Bella started to notice that her arm hurt, particularly at night. The pain kept worsening, sometimes feeling like a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Often, such an issue could be hard to diagnose, but when Stacey Bass, MD, PhD, a Yale Medicine pediatric interventional radiologist, met with Bella, she knew immediately what was wrong. Bella had a venous malformation, a type of vascular malformation (VM). VMs are abnormalities in blood vessels, which carry blood throughout the body, and/or lymphatic vessels, which help maintain the body’s fluid balance.

Sometimes, these vessels get “disorganized,” Dr. Bass explains. “They can become clustered and create a lump in the body. And if the blood doesn’t move normally, it can get caught up in these clusters and cause clots that are very painful,” she says.

A VM develops before birth and, for some people, it doesn’t cause any symptoms but might just be a small, painless birthmark. For others, it may be a large lesion located under the skin or deep within the body and cause pain. In extreme cases, it can cause trouble swallowing or walking or even lead to heart failure or stroke.

At Yale, a Vascular Anomalies Committee meets once a month to discuss each new and existing patient and develop a care plan. A VM treatment can range from a pill to something called sclerotherapy.

“You inject a medication into the malformation, which causes a localized chemical burn to the lesion,” Dr. Bass says. The malformation then shrinks and collapses. Typically, patients need a few sessions to reach the results they’d like to achieve.

After one treatment, Bella was fully recovered within a couple of weeks.

Learn more about vascular malformations and Bella’s story in the video above.