Vein of Galen Malformations

Vein of Galen malformations are abnormal connections between arteries (blood vessels that carry blood to the body) and the deep draining veins (blood vessels that return blood to the heart). In vascular malformations, such as Vein of Galen malformations, there are no capillaries (very small blood vessels that normally connect arteries to veins) at all.

Capillaries slow blood flow so that the body can transfer oxygen between the blood and body tissue. Since vein of Galen malformations lack capillaries, the blood flow can be extremely fast, forcing your heart to work harder. This can cause cardiac failure and can also interfere with the normal blood drainage of the brain resulting in hydrocephalus, or "water on the brain." If we leave vein of Galen malformations untreated, it can cause abnormal brain development, resulting in mental retardation or even death.

At Mount Sinai, under the leadership of Johanna T. Fifi, MD, and Alejandro Berenstein, MD, we take a multidisciplinary approach to treating vein of Galen malformations. A team of interventional neuroradiologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, and critical care physicians devise the treatment plan. We typically use an alternative treatment called an endovascular embolization. This involves placing a catheter into a large artery of the body and using X-rays to guide us through the circulatory system until we reach the problem site. We may need to do this procedure several times over a long period of time.