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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Vein of Galen Malformations

The vein of Galen malformation is a rare blood vessel malformation in the brain that develops before birth. The vein of Galen is a large deep vein at the base of the brain that takes away oxygen-depleted blood. However in this malformation, capillaries that normally slow blood flow and permit oxygen exchange with the surrounding tissues are missing, and so blood rushes directly from arteries into veins.


In the more severe cases, the blood overload goes almost directly to the heart and rapidly overwhelms it, leading to congestive heart failure. Depending on the severity of the condition, it may show up in several ways:

  • In newborns with congestive heart failure
    • Sometimes the condition is noted in an ultrasound before birth
  • Infants with an abnormally large head and developmental delay
    • The malformation blocks the normal flow or absorption of cerebrospinal fluid causing the head to enlarge
  • Older children with a large head and possibly seizures and/or strokes
    • Sometimes learning disabilities are noted
Last UpdateAugust 28, 2012