Engaging men in health

March 2009


Paediatric vascular birthmarks

The psychological impact and the role of the GP

Volume 38, No.3, March 2009 Pages 169-171

Gideon Sandler

Susan Adams

Claire J Taylor


This study was designed to investigate the psychosocial impact on the family of a child with a vascular birthmark and examine the role of the general practitioner in meeting the family’s needs.


Nineteen families were interviewed with a questionnaire before their assessment at the Sydney Children’s Hospital (New South Wales) Vascular Birthmarks Clinic.


Sixty-eight percent of parents overestimated the size of their child’s lesion when asked to draw it; 15% said some lifestyle modifications had to be made to accommodate their child’s condition; 63% were concerned about their child being teased at school; and 36% had issues of self blame and embarrassment. Expectations from the clinic included information (68%), treatment (47%) and reassurance (26%).


Vascular birthmarks are common. Treatment strategies are improving, but there is a need to adequately address the psychosocial impact that these lesions have, both on parents and children. The GP is the carer best placed to meet these needs.

Vascular birthmarks (VBM) are a common heterogeneous group of lesions that affect children from birth or shortly after. They are broadly classified as either haemangiomas or vascular malformations (VMs). Haemangiomas are the most common tumour of childhood affecting 1% of the population. Usually isolated uncomplicated lesions, they grow and regress over time, most disappearing by 9 years of age.1 Vascular malformations are a diverse group of lesions that have a less optimistic prognosis. Ten times less common than haemangiomas, they grow but usually do not regress, and are more often associated with local or systemic complications.1

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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