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What is a vascular birthmark?

Vascular birthmarks are caused when blood vessels don’t form correctly and appear as discoloration of the skin at birth or shortly after birth. There are two main types of vascular birthmarks: hemangiomas and vascular malformations.

Hemangiomas (also known as strawberry marks) are non-cancerous tumors that are usually found on the head or neck in the weeks after birth. The majority of hemangiomas grow rapidly for about a year or less, and then start to shrink over time, disappearing completely by the time the child is 7 years old. However, treatment may be required before this point if the hemangioma interferes with vision, hearing, breathing or other functions, or for aesthetic purposes.

Vascular malformations are non-cancerous lesions that are present at birth and continue to grow slowly throughout a person’s life. Specific types of vascular malformations are port wine stains, venous, arteriovenous and lymphatic.

Northwell Health has a unique Vascular Anomaly Center, one of the few in the United States. Our expert multidisciplinary team of plastic surgeons, dermatologists, interventional radiologists and hemoncologists work together to develop a medical and/or surgical treatment plan that best suits you or your child’s needs.

What to expect

There are several treatment options available, including medicinal, therapeutic and surgical approaches. Your healthcare team will determine the best approach depending on your specific type of vascular birthmark.


The complications will vary depending on the type of birthmark and which treatment option is selected. Your doctor will discuss the specifics with you.


Recovery will look different for each person depending on their type of birthmark and treatment plan, but it should be a fairly quick and easy recovery. Young children heal especially fast and have less scarring due to increased elasticity in their skin. Our surgeons use incisions designed to mimic natural facial lines and shadows to reduce the appearance of scars even further.

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