Clinical phenotype of adolescent and adult patients with extracranial vascular malformation

J Vasc Surg Venous Lymphat Disord. 2023 Sep;11(5):1034-1044.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jvsv.2023.03.012. Epub 2023 Apr 6.


Objective: In recent years, genotypic characterization of congenital vascular malformations (CVMs) has gained attention; however, the spectrum of clinical phenotype remains difficult to attribute to a genetic cause and is rarely described in the adult population. The aim of this study is to describe a consecutive series of adolescent and adult patients in a tertiary center, where a multimodal phenotypic approach was used for diagnosis.

Methods: We analyzed clinical findings, imaging, and laboratory results at initial presentation, and set a diagnosis according to the International Society for the Study of Vascular Anomalies (ISSVA) classification for all consecutively registered patients older than 14 years of age who were referred to the Center for Vascular Malformations at the University Hospital of Bern between 2008 and 2021.

Results: A total of 457 patients were included for analysis (mean age, 35 years; females, 56%). Simple CVMs were the most common (n = 361; 79%), followed by CVMs associated with other anomalies (n = 70; 15%), and combined CVMs (n = 26; 6%). Venous malformations (n = 238) were the most common CVMs overall (52%), and the most common simple CVMs (66%). Pain was the most frequently reported symptom in all patients (simple, combined, and vascular malformation with other anomalies). Pain intensity was more pronounced in simple venous and arteriovenous malformations. Clinical problems were related to the type of CVM diagnosed, with bleeding and skin ulceration in arteriovenous malformations, localized intravascular coagulopathy in venous malformations, and infectious complications in lymphatic malformations. Limb length difference occurred more often in patients with CVMs associated with other anomalies as compared with simple or combined CVM (22.9 vs 2.3%; P < .001). Soft tissue overgrowth was seen in one-quarter of all patients independent of the ISSVA group.

Conclusions: In our adult and adolescent population with peripheral vascular malformations, simple venous malformations predominated, with pain as the most common clinical symptom. In one-quarter of cases, patients with vascular malformations presented with associated anomalies on tissue growth. The differentiation of clinical presentation with or without accompanying growth abnormalities need to be added to the ISSVA classification. Phenotypic characterization considering vascular and non-vascular features remains the cornerstone of diagnosis in adult as well as pediatric patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arteriovenous Malformations* / diagnostic imaging
  • Arteriovenous Malformations* / genetics
  • Arteriovenous Malformations* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pain
  • Phenotype
  • Vascular Malformations* / complications
  • Vascular Malformations* / diagnostic imaging
  • Veins / abnormalities