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Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Vascular Anomalies

Vascular anomalies are also known as vascular birthmarks.  Many vascular anomalies can be seen.  They may be flat or raised and may be various shades of blue, pink, purple or red.  However, others may be deep to the skin and invisible, and are only seen with imaging.  

Vascular anomalies are classified into vascular tumours and vascular malformations.  Vascular tumours are the result of rapid cell growth and multiplication of endothelial cells, which are the cell type that make up blood vessels.  Vascular malformations are different.  Vascular malformations are caused by developmental errors in the formation of vascular channels (blood vessels and lymphatic channels) which result in blood and/or lymph vessels that have abnormal patterns.  

It is important to make the correct diagnosis as vascular tumours and malformations require different treatments.  The diagnosis of a particular vascular anomaly is generally based on clinical history and physical examination, and may be assisted by imaging such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound.  Occasionally, other tests are required to fully assess the condition.    

The purpose of this section is to assist families and patients in understanding vascular anomalies and some of the medical terminology they may encounter.  

Please select a vascular anomaly type from below to learn more: