Hemangioma versus vascular malformation: Presence of nerve bundle is a diagnostic clue for vascular malformation

Patrick A. Adegboyega, Suimin Qiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Context. - Arteriovenous vascular malformations and hemangiomas are benign vascular lesions that are difficult to distinguish from one another clinically. Also, they may be confused with each other at histopathology. Therefore, histochemical stains for the presence of an artery are frequently used to distinguish between the two. Objective. - Because it is clinically relevant to differentiate between arteriovenous vascular malformations and hemangiomas, this study was carried out to explore additional diagnostic clues that may help in the diagnosis and differentiation of these lesions. Design. - A total of 167 cases of benign extracranial vascular lesions were retrieved from the anatomic pathology file of our institution. These comprised 66 cases diagnosed as arteriovenous vascular malformations and 101 cases previously diagnosed as hemangiomas. The hematoxylineosin-stained glass slides were reviewed, Movat pentichrome histochemical stain was used to identify elastic vessels (arteries/arterioles), and S100 immunostain was used to identify nerves within these vascular lesions. For immunohistochemistry, the avidin-biotin detection method was used. Results. - With Movat stain, the presence of thick-walled elastic arteries was detected in 12 of the 101 cases previously diagnosed as hemangiomas, and these cases were therefore reclassified as vascular malformations. Using the same criterion, 2 of the 66 cases originally diagnosed as arteriovenous vascular malformations were reclassified as hemangiomas because they lacked arterial structures. Thus, with this strict criterion, we ended up with 91 cases of hemangiomas and 76 cases of arteriovenous vascular malformations. Intralesional nerves were identified in 91% (69/76) of cases of arteriovenous vascular malformations, including all the 12 arteriovenous vascular malformations previously diagnosed as hemangiomas. In contrast, no intralesional nerve was detected in any of the 91 hemangiomas. Conclusions. - These results show that nerve bundles are consistently present in vascular malformations and absent in hemangiomas and so can be used as a diagnostic clue to differentiate between these lesions. Also, in addition to describing a previously unreported component of vascular malformations, these data further confirm the hamartomatous nature of these lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)772-775
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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