Venous malformations are collections of abnormally formed veins. They can occur anywhere in the body – though there is a tendency to affect the face, head, and neck – and may be present in up to 4% of the population. They are thought to be present at birth, though they may grow and become apparent at any time in life, from birth to adulthood. It is not clear what exactly causes them, though some may be due to a genetic mutation and rarely they can run in families.
Symptoms of venous malformations vary. They may appear as a blue or purple patch on the skin, or as soft, spongy, compressible mass or swelling under the skin. They may cause pain, compress nearby tissues and organs, and sometimes bleed with minor trauma. Their appearance can be disfiguring, and embarrassing to some as well. The diagnosis can be made on physical examination, often in conjunction with a MRI or CT scan.
Fortunately, treatments for venous malformations are available. Although surgery is sometimes the best choice, many patients may qualify for minimally invasive, non-surgical procedures, such as percutaneous sclerotherapy and other embolization techniques. Interventional neuroradiologists Drs. Marden and Malisch are experienced in evaluating patients with vascular malformations of the face, head, and neck at Alexian Brothers Medical Center, and can perform many of these procedures on an outpatient basis. A clinic visit to see one of them may help you decide if this treatment is right for you.
This patient’s MRI shows the dilated venous pouches (arrows) of a large venous malformation affecting the left side of his face before treatment. The patient underwent a series of injections using Sotradecol (sodium tetradecyl sulfate), with marked improvement in the size of the malformation.