Vessels responsible for draining fluid from our bodies (blood or lymphatic fluid) develop abnormally. The result is that instead of tubes and pipes, they form sponges or small cysts, called vascular malformations. The most common slow-flow vascular malformations are lymphatic malformations and venous malformations.


Slow Flow Vascular Malformations are usually at birth or in early childhood. Venous malformations sometimes cause a blue/purple discoloration and bulging if they are near the skin surface. Deeper (possibly within a muscle group) malformations may not be visible and are typically only diagnosed following advanced imaging.

Signs of malformations include:

  • Pain - often due to clotting of blood in the abnormal
  • Spongy tissue
  • Swelling
  • Lymphatic malformations appear suddenly and increase in size within hours -- indicating that fragile walls have bled.


Ultrasound and MRI are the most commonly used tools to diagnose vascular malformations. A biopsy is rarely needed in centers specializing in vascular malformations, but many facilities choose to biopsy for further confirmation, given their rarity.


Most vascular malformations benefit from sclerotherapy, and this is often the first line of treatment. Some malformations may benefit from surgical resection, and usually, medical-grade glue is injected into the malformation before surgery. Medical treatment is also increasingly shown to have a synergistic benefit with procedures.

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