Hemangioma is a birthmark caused by abnormal proliferation of blood vessels. It is the most widespread benign skin tumor and is characterized by a bright red skin lesion or nodule. Because of their color and shape, hemangiomas are often referred to as strawberry hemangiomas or even wine stains and salmon patches.
Hemangiomas are usually present at birth as a faint red stain, but become visible shortly after birth as they start to grow fast. They mainly affect the face and neck and occur much more often in females than in males.
During the first year of life, the hemangioma develops extremely fast and can range from a very small reddish stain to a large defacing nodule.
How is it treated?
Most hemangiomas are harmless and tend to disappear on their own. By the time the child is 12 to 18 months old, the stain starts to shrink and then fades to become hardly noticeable by the age of 7. However, some hemangiomas tend to cause bleeding, feeding or breathing problems, or obstruction of the child’s vision. In other cases, the stain becomes extremely large that it disfigures the child’s appearance and causes emotional distress. In these cases, a medical or surgical intervention is necessary to provide the child with a more normal lifestyle.
After a thorough examination of the patient’s case, a course of treatment is decided using one of the following methods:
- Corticosteroid Injections: Corticosteroids injections are usually given during the lesion growth period. Their aim is to stop the development of the hemangioma and often reverse it.
- Excision Surgery: During surgery, the abnormal vascular tissue are removed using a lens-shaped excision. The surgery is done under local or general anesthesia and leaves a linear scar, which will fade with time.
- Embolization: Special particles are injected inside the lesion. These particles will block the blood vessels and stop the growth of the hemangioma.
What is a vascular malformation?
A vascular malformation is another form of birthmark, characterized by an abnormal growth of blood vessels. Unlike hemangiomas, vascular malformations do not disappear spontaneously but continue to enlarge in parallel to the child’s growth. There are several types of malformations, which are categorized according to the affected type of blood vessel:
- Capillary: They appear at birth as pink or red skin stains.
- Venous: They are often mixed up with a hemangioma, and are mostly located on the face.
- Lymphatic: They cause a lump under the skin and are formed by the accumulation of fluids within the lymphatic vessels.
- Arteriovenous: They result from an abnormal correlation of arteries and veins. They tend to cause heart stress because of high blood flow and can sometimes cause bleeding.
Some patients present a mixed condition, combining two or more malformations at the same time.
How is it treated?
Treating a vascular malformation varies according to its type. After a thorough examination of the patient’s case, a course of treatment is decided using one of the following methods:
- Laser therapy: Used in case of a capillary malformation, which is usually a flat reddish stain. The abnormal vessels are closed off over several sessions until the malformation disappears.
- Excision Surgery: A surgery is necessary when the lesion is localized and reachable. During surgery, the abnormal vascular tissue is removed using a lens-shaped excision. The excision surgery is usually done under general anesthesia and leaves a linear scar, which will fade with time.
Sometimes, a combination of these treatments is necessary to fully manage the lesion.
Disclaimer: The info presented on this page is indicative and for generic use only. Each patient’s case is unique and will be studied by Dr. Chadi Murr for full assessment.