What is a vascular anomaly?
Vascular anomalies are congenital, rarely acquired, malformations of vessels that can occur at any age. Affected are mostly infants, toddlers and adolescents, as well as adults. There are no exact figures for the number of people affected worldwide. In Germany, less than 0.5% of people suffer from this rare disease. It is estimated that this affects about 450,000 people.
At present, vascular anomalies are classified in terms of their clinical manifestation, tissue composition, genetic characteristics and their imaging characteristics. Basically, a distinction is made between vascular tumors, the infantile hemangioma is most frequently represented here and vascular malformations. According to the predominant type of vessel, these vascular malformations are divided into capillary, venous, lymphatic or arteriovenous malformations or combinations thereof. Accompanying malformations of the adipose tissue and musculoskeletal system are common and define syndroms a Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, PROS, CLOVES and Proteus Syndrome.
The clinical picture is multifaceted and offers a wide spectrum of clinical appearances. Vascular anomalies are considered the most difficult vascular diseases. The path that patients have to travel before the correct diagnosis is made and expert advice and adequate therapeutic options are offered is often long and complicated. In Germany, there is a lack of centers with interdisciplinary expertise in vascular anomalies in order to provide interdisciplinary diagnosis and treatment. It is only through a high degree of interdisciplinary expertise and experience in dealing with diagnosis and treatment of vascular anomalies, that the affected patients can be treated properly.
Scientific and individuakized therapy of vascular anomalies
Many vascular tumors, especially infantile hemangiomas, often require drug therapy. For the symptomatic treatment of vascular malformations amongst other things, in addition to individual pain therapy, medical compression garments as well as orthopedic and physical measures are used. The therapy depends on the individual nature and severity of the vascular anomaly, which must be successfully eliminated by minimally invasive or surgical means.
The majority of vascular anomalies can be treated by minimally invasive procedures such as sclerotherapy or catheterizations. Nowadys, open surgical resections are most often used in combination with minimally invasive techniques. However, in experienced hands, surgical treatment is possible and useful.
Challenge for patients and caretakers
Due to the rarity and clinical variety of the disease group, patients with vascular anomalies often travel a long way before their disease is correctly diagnosed and treated. The care of patients with vascular anomalies is best done in specialized interdisciplinary centers, which have a great deal of experience in diagnosis and treatment due to regular exposure to the rare disease. It should be warranted that experts from different disciplines work closely and interactively across their professional boundaries and that clinical and scientific knowledge-sharing and training are carried out at regular intervals.