Capillary malformations

What are capillary malformations?

Capillary malformations occur during fetal development when the capillaries that deliver blood form differently than normal. The exact cause of this is unknown, but it is unrelated to drugs or medications that may have been taken during pregnancy or to environmental exposures that may have occurred at that time.

Capillary malformations appear as birthmarks, commonly called port wine stains. They are often on the head and neck. When they appear in other locations, they may indicate additional conditions.

What are the symptoms of capillary malformations?

The malformations appear as dark red, flat areas on the skin that do not feel any different than unmarked skin.

How are capillary malformations diagnosed?

Capillary malformations are usually diagnosed by their visual appearance. If they involve the eye or spinal area, doctors may order additional testing to be sure it is not a sign of another complication.

How are capillary malformations treated?

Most capillary malformations present no complications and fade in time.

If a patient is concerned about appearance, laser treatments can lighten or eliminate the mark. In extreme cases, surgery can help in improving appearance as well.

What outcomes are available at Children's for those with capillary malformations?

In most cases, treatment is not needed for patients to expect a normal quality of life. If, however, the appearance of a capillary malformation causes extreme distress, treatment can help. Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota offers the latest in laser and surgical protocols to elicit the most successful outcomes.

About treatment for capillary malformations at Children's.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota provides a team of health care experts to diagnose and treat conditions like capillary malformations. Part of that team includes child life specialists who understand the social pressures of appearance and the need to "fit in." With the help of our counselors and physicians, you and your child can feel confident in your treatment decision.

Contact Us

For consultation, referral or an appointment, call the Vascular Anomalies Center at (612) 813-7100.