Vascular Malformations & Hemangiomas

Vascular malformations and hemangiomas not only affect physical appearance, but they can affect your child’s physical health also. Our comprehensive treatments for pediatric vascular conditions are designed to address both, improving your child’s well-being and self-confidence as they enter the teenage and young adult years.

Board-certified pediatric plastic surgeon Dr. Eric J. Stelnicki is the director of the hemangioma and vascular anomalies team at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. This medical team consists of many different doctors who are dedicated to a multidisciplinary approach for the treatment of vascular malformations and hemangiomas in children.

Vascular Malformations

Examples of vascular malformations are port-wine stain (including Sturge-Weber syndrome) and cystic hygromas (lymphatic malformation). Sturge-Weber syndrome is a facial port-wine stain that can involve the brain and produce glaucoma or seizures. It needs to be evaluated closely by a pediatric plastic surgeon as well as a neurologist.

Lymphatic malformations can interfere with the body’s ability to remove bacteria from body tissues. Vascular malformations affect boys and girls at the same rate. Although present at birth, they may not be detected in utero.

Vascular anomalies do not go away without treatment and unfortunately do not respond to steroids, interferon or other medication therapies. Vascular laser treatments are excellent for treating vascular malformations. Because these grow throughout life, they require multiple treatments with the laser.

Dr. Stelnicki frequently works with a pediatric radiologist to optimize the treatment of these lesions when surgery is required. He may order an MRI study and a special blood vessel study to evaluate the lymphangioma or vascular malformation prior to any therapy.

Prior to surgery, Dr. Stelnicki will consult the interventional radiology unit for either percutaneous sclerotherapy or intravascular embolization, which decreases the size of the lesion and the amount of bleeding. Using a multidisciplinary approach reduces the number of surgeries needed and the amount of overall scaring. 


A hemangioma is a benign tumor caused by an overgrowth of the cells that line the blood vessels. A hemangioma initially appears as a small birthmark or scratch and affects one in every 2,000 newborns. Girls are three times more likely to develop hemangiomas than boys. About 60% of hemangiomas occur on the head or neck area, and 10% of affected babies have more than one hemangioma.

Hemangiomas typically grow quickly and often unpredictably. They all shrink eventually, but it can take up to seven years for a hemangioma to completely go away. 

Hemangiomas cause problems when located near the eyes, ears, nose or mouth. They may also present problems when located on a joint (may cause limitation in range of motion of the affected joint) or on areas of pressure points.

To stunt the growth of, shrink or remove a hemangioma, medication therapy with steroids or propranolol may be used, as well as vascular laser therapy, or in severe cases, surgery. Dr. Stelnicki may potentially order an MRI scan to assess the possible involvement of blood vessels shared with other organs.

If your child has been diagnosed with a hemangioma or vascular malformation, turn to the experts at the Atlantic Center in South Florida. Call our office or request an appointment online today.

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