Vascular Malformations

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Although not hereditary, vascular malformations are a group of abnormal blood vessels that have been present since birth. They can occur anywhere in the body and involve any organ. Vascular malformations are divided into two broad categories:

  • High flow (involving the arteries and veins)
  • Low flow (mainly involving the veins and sometimes the lymph vessels)

Vascular malformations are often caused by hormones. They can grow during puberty, pregnancy or with the use of oral contraceptives.

Symptoms of Vascular Malformations

Normal artery compared to one with vascular malformation
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Symptoms will depend on the type of vascular malformation and its location. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the malformation area
  • Bleeding
  • Abnormal functioning of an organ involved with the vascular malformation
  • Possible birthmark associated with the malformation

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

At UVA, we can diagnose you by using these tests:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Angiography

Treatment depends on the type of vascular malformation. Common treatments include:

  • Laser therapy: Birthmarks can be removed with laser treatment.
  • Sclerotherapy/Embolization: A chemical solution is injected to block abnormal blood vessels in vein and artery malformations.
  • Surgery: Surgery can remove malformations localized in fatty tissue.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.