Inconsistency in classifying vascular anomalies: What's in a name?

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Abstract

Background:

Vascular anomalies are a heterogeneous group of disorders seen in children and adults. A standard nomenclature for classification has been offered by the International Society for the Study of Vascular Anomalies. Its application is important for communication among the multiple specialties involved in the care of patients and for planning treatment, as well as for research and billing. We hypothesized that terminology still is not uniformly applied, and that this could have an impact on treatment.

Methods:

We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of patients with nonbrain lesions from our institutional vascular anomalies database seen during 2010–2016 for whom at least one clinic visit, radiologic imaging report, and pathology report were available to compare diagnoses among and within disciplines, and treatment recommendations. Diagnoses and referral patterns by community healthcare providers were also reviewed.

Results:

Of 400 patients seen during the targeted time interval, 35 had clinical, imaging, and pathology reports. Agreement in terminology from initial clinic notes with imaging and pathology reports was noted in only three cases (9%). “Hemangioma” was often misused; “lymphangioma” and “cystic hygroma” persist as diagnostic labels. Community healthcare providers referred vascular malformations with a diagnosis of “mass” or “hemangioma” in 17 of 18 cases where that information was available. Incomplete or mislabeling of vascular anomalies sometimes delayed referrals to appropriate clinics, though it did not have a major impact on treatment.

Conclusions:

An understanding of vascular anomalies as tumors or malformations is not uniform. Ongoing education will be needed to promote consensus terminology and facilitate referrals.

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