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Birthmark can be health warning; Vascular problems may lurk in infants

SHARE Birthmark can be health warning; Vascular problems may lurk in infants

For some infants with a type of vascular birthmark, the angry red splotches may be a sign of more serious problems with blood vessels in their hearts and brains, according to new research by a team that included a Medical College of Wisconsin scientist.

The results could help doctors with treatment and diagnosis.

The study looked at babies with facial hemangiomas, which are benign tumors lining the blood vessels that create raised, strawberry-like lesions. Most of the time, these splotches are harmless and resolve themselves as children grow, but they also can be accompanied by severe defects in the blood vessels in the brain, heart and nervous system. The condition, which can sometimes lead to stroke and seizure, is rarely fatal. Since the cluster of symptoms was recognized in 1966, doctors around the world have reported more than 200 cases of the more serious set of symptoms.

The study included 108 babies with large hemangiomas and found that almost one-third of them also had the more extensive deformities in brain, eyes, nervous system and heart vessels. Digging deeper, the scientists found those with the largest hemangiomas, and ones that spanned more than one portion of their face, were more likely to have the serious defects. Babies with smaller birthmarks or ones that spread across the cheek were less likely to have the life-threatening vascular defects.

The results could help clinicians step up screening efforts and tailor their treatments. Beta blockers, which are a common hemangioma treatment, lower blood pressure and thus may be dangerous for babies with narrowed heart arteries, according to the article.

Given the higher prevalence of serious symptoms, doctors should be cautious before prescribing these drugs, noted the authors, which included Beth Drolet, a professor of dermatology and pediatrics at the Medical College.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.