They may appear in the first days after birth. Often, they look like a diaper rash. As a new parent, any type of red spot on your baby’s newborn skin is cause for concern.
Once your doctor told you what it was, you might have been left even more confused than before. After all, hemangioma is a big, scary word. You hit the internet, typing the words, “My baby has a hemangioma, now what?” Perhaps you learn a little, or perhaps you’re even more scared as you start to read about terms like vascular malformations as well.
In this article, we’re going to shed light on both hemangiomas and other vascular malformations and help ease your concern a bit. We’ll also tell you that you aren’t alone as these are very common conditions, and we explain how a plastic surgeon can help.
What is a Vascular Malformation?
Like hemangiomas (a type of birthmark), vascular malformations, including port-wine stains and nevus moles, are abnormal clusters of blood vessels that occur during fetal development. The exact cause of these malformations is at present unknown. They occur equally in both male and female babies.
These lesions are always present at the birth of your child, but you might not be able to see them until days, weeks and sometimes even years later. They typically grow in proportion to the growth of your child.
Let’s break these malformations down a bit.
What is a Hemangioma (Strawberry Mark)?
Hemangiomas are a type of birthmark made of blood vessels. They usually appear as soft masses with red or blue coloration. These tend to grow when the child is very young.
Hemangiomas can shrink, and some can disappear usually by five-nine years of age. However, they can leave a scar or skin irregularity. Your plastic surgeon can treat these through careful observation. On occasion, medications can help the hemangioma shrink more quickly. If scarring occurs, your surgeon can excise the area.
Children with hemangiomas on the face can sometimes experience blocked vision, problems with hearing, or issues with breathing. In these cases, early treatment is necessary in order to allow hearing and seeing to develop normally. Treatment usually entails direct excision or medications to shrink the hemangioma quickly.
What is a Capillary Malformation (Port-Wine Stain)?
You may know a child with a port-wine stain, otherwise known as a capillary malformation. This is also a birthmark made of blood vessels, however, these appear as flat red splotches. They can vary significantly in size, and they do not fade with time. Treatment with a laser is recommended. Your physician will use the laser to shrink the blood vessels, causing the red color to fade.
It’s best to begin these laser treatments early. Seeking treatment before one year of age elicits the best response.
What is a Melanocytic Nevus (Mole)?
Congenital melanocytic nevus, also known as a mole, is a brown, flat or raised birthmark. These marks happen when pigment-producing cells in the skin grow excessively and produce melanin (brown pigment). Most commonly, these are small and do not need any treatment.
However, if these moles are large or have suspicious features (irregular borders, growing, bleeding, itching, variegated color), they have a small risk of becoming a cancer, called melanoma, and they may need to be excised. Sometimes, these moles can be very large, greater than the size of the palm of your hand, and we recommend removal to decrease cancer risk and improve appearance.
If the mole is large, your physician may need to use tissue expansion to remove the whole mark. Tissue expansion is a procedure where the skin is stretched with saline-filled tissue expanders placed under the skin.
Your baby’s vascular malformations including hemangiomas, port-wine stains and moles can be treated by a plastic surgeon. These vascular anomalies can be treated in several ways including minimally invasive interventional procedures to extensive surgical procedures. We recommend consulting a plastic surgeon as soon as you notice any of these issues with your baby.
You Deserve Expert Guidance and Exceptional Results
Plastic surgery involves many choices. The most important is selecting a surgeon you can trust. Expect exceptional results when you have your procedures performed by plastic surgeons who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and who are members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons like Bruce Ferris, MD, and Amy Sprole, MD, or surgeons who are board-eligible, like Nataliya Biskup, MD. The specially trained doctors have at least six years of surgical training and experience, with a minimum of three years of plastic surgery.
By Bruce Ferris, MD, Amy Sprole, MD, and Nataliya Biskup, MD