Venous Malformation | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is a venous malformation diagnosed?

In many cases, a complete medical history and a thorough physical exam provide enough information to diagnose a venous malformation (VM).

What tests may my child need?

In some cases, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following imaging tests to help determine the correct diagnosis and the appropriate next steps in treatment:

  • Ultrasound (also called ultrasonography): An ultrasound helps your doctor see your child’s venous system to examine abnormalities.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This high-resolution scan can confirm the diagnosis, and allow your doctor to determine the size of the malformation and plan the next steps in treatment.
  • Computerized tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan): Your doctor may recommend a CT scan to examine a VM that’s affecting your child’s bones.

After all necessary tests are completed, the care team will review and discuss your child's condition then meet with you and your family to outline the best treatment options.

We advise consulting a vascular anomalies specialist if:

  • A VM is in a critical location, such as around her eye, face, or neck.
  • A VM involves the hands, feet, or an internal organ, such as the gastrointestinal tract, liver, or brain.

What are the treatment options for a venous malformation?

Because there’s no cure for a venous malformation (VM), we focus on managing your child’s symptoms. We only recommend treating a VM if the malformation:

  • causes pain
  • creates a deformity
  • obstructs a vital structure such as your child's airway
  • affects your child's vision
  • causes gastrointestinal bleeding

Children with VMs sometimes need multidisciplinary care. Specialists that may be part of your child’s care team include the following:

  • dermatologist
  • plastic surgeon
  • general surgeon
  • interventional radiologist
  • orthopedist
  • hematologist

The treatment options we recommend may include:


Sclerotherapy, in which an interventional radiologists injects a solution into the malformation that irritates the abnormal veins and makes them shrink or disappear, is our first choice of therapy.

Compression garments

If your child has a VM on his arm or leg, your doctor may recommend that he or she wear these tight-fitting pieces of clothing on the affected limb to reduce pain and swelling.

Anticoagulant therapy

One of the potential risks of a large VM is that a blood clot formed in the abnormal blood vessels will cause pain. Your doctor may recommend that your child take a daily dose of an anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medication to help prevent clots from forming. Venous malformations can also have problems with coagulation proteins that are consumed in the abnormal vessels and make a patient prone to bleeding as well as clotting, so the use of anticoagulant therapy should be monitored by your doctor.

Sirolimus therapy

Medical treatment with sirolimus can decrease pain and the fullness of venous malformations and improve coagulation levels.

Surgical resection

Surgical resection is a procedure where a surgeon removes part or all of your child's lesion. We may recommend resection if:

  • A child has a small lesion that can easily be removed completely.
  • Your child has GVMs (which are small and typically don't respond well to sclerotherapy) or gastrointestinal VMs.
  • Your child has a deformity after undergoing sclerotherapy.

What is the long-term outlook for children with venous malformations?

A VM is a chronic condition, which means that it will stay with your child as he grows. That said, many kids — especially those with mild VMs — live normal, healthy lives.

VMs can expand after treatment, even with surgery or sclerotherapy. For this reason, a child with a VM may undergo multiple treatments. Depending on the severity of your child’s condition, your doctor may recommend a series of follow-up visits to check for complications and make sure that we’re managing your child’s VM effectively.