Cutaneous vascular anomalies. Part I. Hamartomas, malformations, and dilation of preexisting vessels

J Am Acad Dermatol. 1997 Oct;37(4):523-49; quiz 549-52. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(97)70169-5.


Classification of cutaneous vascular anomalies is difficult because conceptual confusion persists between vascular neoplasms and malformations. However, hemangiomas of the infancy fulfill criteria both for hyperplasia and neoplasm because they result from proliferation of endothelial cells, but often undergo complete regression. Despite these pitfalls we have classified cutaneous vascular anomalies into the following categories: hamartomas, malformations, dilatations of preexisting vessels, hyperplasias, benign neoplasms, and malignant neoplasms. In this first part of our clinicopathologic review of vascular anomalies, hamartomas, malformations, and dilatation of preexisting vessels are covered. Hamartomas include several combined vascular and melanocytic proliferations grouped as phakomatosis pigmentovascularis and the so-called eccrine angiomatous hamartoma that consists of proliferations of both eccrine glands and blood vessels. Vascular malformations result from anomalies of embryologic development, and in some of them the abnormalities of the involved vessels are more functional than anatomic, as is the case of nevus anemicus. In contrast, other cutaneous vascular malformations show striking morphologic abnormalities of the vascular structures. These anatomic vascular malformations are subdivided into the following groups: capillary, venous, arterial, lymphatic, and combined anomalies. Spider angioma, capillary aneurysm-venous lake, and telangiectases are not vascular proliferations at all, but dilations of preexisting vessels. In our opinion, most of the lesions described with the generic term of "angiokeratoma" are not authentic vascular neoplasms, but hyperkeratotic malformations of capillaries and venules or acquired telangiectases of preexisting blood vessels of the papillary dermis. Therefore the first group of these "angiokeratomas" are included in the vascular malformations section, and the second group are covered in the section of dilation of preexisting vessels. Lymphangiectases are considered the lymphatic counterpart of angiokeratomas because they result from ectasia of preexisting lymphatic vessels of the papillary dermis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aneurysm / pathology
  • Angiokeratoma / pathology
  • Blood Vessels / abnormalities*
  • Capillaries / abnormalities
  • Dilatation, Pathologic / pathology
  • Eccrine Glands / pathology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology
  • Hamartoma / pathology*
  • Hemangioma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia
  • Infant
  • Lymphangiectasis / pathology
  • Lymphatic System / abnormalities
  • Melanocytes / pathology
  • Neoplasm Regression, Spontaneous
  • Remission, Spontaneous
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Skin Diseases, Vascular / pathology*
  • Telangiectasis / pathology
  • Vascular Neoplasms / pathology
  • Venules / abnormalities