Vascular Malformations | Lymphatic | MedStar Health

Abnormal formation or development of blood vessels

Although vascular malformations almost always are present at birth, they may not be apparent until weeks or years later. The doctors in our Vascular and Endovascular Program specialize in treating vascular malformations and will work with you to create a personalized treatment program that addresses your specific condition.

Vascular malformations can affect various blood and fluid systems:

  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) connected directly to each other instead of to capillaries that transfer oxygen and nutrients from the blood to tissues and organs.

  • Capillary malformations: More commonly known as port-wine stains, these malformations cause a ruby red mark on the skin.
  • Lymphatic malformations: These malformations flow the transfer of lymphatic fluid from lymphatic vessels into the venous system, causing fluid to build up and result in swelling.
  • Venous malformations: The most common type of vascular malformation, these consist of veins that do not work properly.
  • Combined vascular malformations: In these, any of the above types of malformations may be combined.

The severity of vascular malformations can vary widely. They may present as a birthmark, stimulate the development of varicose veins, or cause enlargement or lengthening of a limb by stimulating its bony growth centers. The vessels also may be vulnerable to injury and bleed or break down, causing an open wound known as an ulcer.


Diagnosing a vascular malformation is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures.

Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.

Arterial Duplex Ultrasound for Arms and Legs

Arterial duplex ultrasound uses Doppler and traditional ultrasound to assess blood flow in the arteries of your arms and legs.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Pulse Volume Recording

Pulse volume recording tests are used to evaluate blood flow through the arteries in your arms or legs.


Your treatment will depend on the type of vascular malformation you have. Some may only require monitoring, compression garments, or medication. If your malformation is severe and causes pain, ulceration, bleeding, blood clots, or limb changes, you may need more advanced treatment such as surgery or sclerotherapy.

Vascular Disease Treatments

Vascular disease treatments address conditions that affect the blood vessels, which can cause blood flow to become decreased, interrupted, or slowed.

Additional information

Vascular and endovascular program

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