Capillary Malformation | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is a capillary malformation diagnosed?

A complete medical history and thorough physical exam by a vascular anomalies specialist is usually all that is needed to diagnose a capillary malformation.

If there are any concerns that your child might have an underlying condition, your doctor recommend an imaging study such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This is a high-resolution scan that allows the doctor to detect any related abnormality in your child’s muscles, nerves, bones and blood vessels.

You should consult a vascular anomalies specialist if:

What are the treatment options for a capillary malformation?

If your child’s capillary malformation has no underlying complications, it can be left untreated, or it can be lightened using pulsed dye laser therapy.

A pulsed dye laser destroys the abnormal blood capillaries. Pulsed dye laser is the gold standard of treatment for capillary malformations because it’s highly effective, doesn't damage the surrounding skin and rarely causes scarring.

Every capillary malformation responds differently to laser therapy. Laser therapy usually succeeds in lightening the stain, but doesn't make it go away completely.

In the rare case that a capillary malformation is a sign of an underlying condition, we’ll refer him to the appropriate vascular anomalies specialists to design a treatment plan that addresses the underlying issue as well as the capillary malformation. 

You should start treatment when a child is an infant. At this time, the stain is still small and so it’s much easier to treat. Pulsed dye laser therapy will work in older children, though it may require more treatments.

What is the long-term outlook? 

Capillary malformations are chronic conditions, but have very few long-term risks. It will grow as your child grows, but rarely do they cause any serious health problems

If your child undergoes pulsed dye laser therapy, your care team will devise a schedule of follow-up care to check on the effectiveness of the laser therapy and decide whether more treatments are necessary.