Vein of galen malformations in children

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One family’s story

Through the nonprofit Partners in Health, 4-month-old Rolensky of Haiti came to Boston Children’s Hospital with heart failure caused by a large vein of Galen malformation (VOGM) deep in his brain. Two embolization procedures sealed off the malformed vessels, allowing Rolensky to make a dramatic recovery. Read more.


Vein of Galen malformations (VOGMs) are a type of arteriovenous fistula (AVF), a rare blood vessel abnormality in which arteries connect directly with veins, bypassing the capillaries. VOGMs involve a large vein deep in the brain and are formed during early prenatal development.

VOGMs are often noticed on a prenatal ultrasound late in pregnancy, and in other cases are diagnosed after birth. Symptoms may include:

  • heart failure, often within the first day or two of life
  • increased head circumference, resulting from hydrocephalus
  • unusually prominent veins on the face and scalp
  • failure to meet developmental milestones
  • persistent headache
  • in very rare cases, a bleed in the brain

VOGMs can result in severe neurologic problems and may even be life-threatening if they are not diagnosed and treated early. When treated, however, the majority of children go on to live active and full lives.

Why choose Boston Children’s Hospital?
The Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventions Center is one of the few pediatric centers in the world that specializes in treating VOGMs. Our safety record is unparalleled, and we use minimally invasive, catheter-based procedures in most cases. To ensure treatment success, we have pioneered the practice of performing an additional angiogram before waking patients from anesthesia.

We bring together an unusually large number of specialties to care for your child, matched by few other hospitals. They include pediatric specialists in vascular anomalies, neonatal intensive care, cardiology, neurology, neuroanesthesiology, neurointerventional radiology and neurosurgery, as well as staff in our medical-surgical intensive care unit, whose expertise is critical in ensuring the best outcomes.

Our physicians work closely and attend weekly conferences with the Vascular Anomalies Center at Boston Children’s. Through active research, we are constantly exploring methods to make a more precise diagnosis of VOGM and seeking new treatments aimed at safeguarding normal blood flow to the brain while minimizing flow through the VOGM itself.

The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944