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Vein of Galen Malformation

  • Author: Raj D Sheth, MD; Chief Editor: Amy Kao, MD  more...
Updated: Nov 18, 2015


The vein of Galen is located under the cerebral hemispheres and drains the anterior and central regions of the brain into the sinuses of the posterior cerebral fossa. The vein of Galen aneurysmal malformation is a choroidal type of arteriovenous malformation involving the vein of Galen forerunner and is distinct from an arteriovenous malformation with venous drainage into a dilated, but already formed, vein of Galen.

Aneurysmal malformations of the vein of Galen (VGAM) typically result in high-output congestive heart failure or may present with developmental delay, hydrocephalus, and seizures.[1]



Vein of Galen malformation (VGAM) results from an aneurysmal malformation with an arteriovenous shunting of blood. The congenital malformation develops during weeks 6-11 of fetal development as a persistent embryonic prosencephalic vein of Markowski; thus, VGAM is actually a misnomer. The vein of Markowski actually drains into the vein of Galen.

VGAM usually causes high-output heart failure in the newborn resulting from the decreased resistance and high blood flow in the lesion. Associated findings include cerebral ischemic changes such as strokes or steal phenomena that result in progressive hemiparesis. Hemorrhage from the malformation can occur, although this is not a common finding. Finally, the malformation may result in mass effects, causing progressive neurological impairment. Alternatively, the malformation may cause obstruction of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) outflow and result in hydrocephalus.[2]

Vein of Galen malformation has been associated with capillary malformation-arteriovenous malformation (CM-AVM), which is a newly recognized autosomal dominant disorder, caused by mutations in the RASA1 gene in 6 families. The authors report severe intracranial AVMs, including vein of Galen aneurysmal malformation, which was symptomatic at birth or during infancy, extracranial AVM of the face and extremities, and Parkes Weber syndrome, previously considered sporadic and nongenetic.[3]




The incidence of the vein of Galen malformation is unknown.


Infants often die if the high-output congestive heart failure is the presenting feature.

Macrocephaly usually improves following shunting for hydrocephalus.


VGAM is a congenital malformation; therefore, it may present at birth or in early childhood. It occurs in all races, and boys and girls are affected equally.




Fetuses with prenatally diagnosed VGAM have unexpectedly poor outcomes in the presence of cardiac or cerebral anomalies, while those with strictly isolated VGAM tend to have more favorable outcomes. Of 21 cases of prenatally diagnosed VGAM, 4 (19.0%) cases were isolated and 17 (81.0%) were associated with other anomalies. There were nine terminations (42.9%) and six neonatal deaths (28.6%).[4]

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Raj D Sheth, MD Chief, Division of Pediatric Neurology, Nemours Children's Clinic; Professor of Neurology, Mayo College of Medicine; Professor of Pediatrics, University of Florida College of Medicine

Raj D Sheth, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Epilepsy Society, American Neurological Association, Child Neurology Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Kenneth J Mack, MD, PhD Senior Associate Consultant, Department of Child and Adolescent Neurology, Mayo Clinic

Kenneth J Mack, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, Child Neurology Society, Phi Beta Kappa, Society for Neuroscience

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Amy Kao, MD Attending Neurologist, Children's National Medical Center

Amy Kao, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Epilepsy Society, Child Neurology Society

Disclosure: Have stock from Cellectar Biosciences; have stock from Varian medical systems; have stock from Express Scripts.

Additional Contributors

Ann M Neumeyer, MD Medical Director, Lurie Center for Autism; Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School; Child Neurologist, Massachusetts General Hospital

Ann M Neumeyer, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, Child Neurology Society, Massachusetts Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous author, Ernesto Tiznado-Garcia, MD, to the development and writing of this article.

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Cerebral MRI showing large flow void in the central region with enlarged straight sinus.
Coronal MRI of head showing large central vein of Galen malformation with moderate degree of hydrocephalus.
Cranial MRI showing flow void in the sagittal plain and drainage to the straight and transverse sinuses.
Sagittal cerebral MRI with gadolinium showing the relationship of a vein of Galen malformation to the corpus callosum.
MRI venogram showing vein of Galen malformation with draining veins.
Venogram showing the draining vasculature for the vein of Galen malformation.
Skull radiograph showing coils that have been placed during an intravascular embolization of a vein of Galen malformation. Note the ventriculoperitoneal shunt catheter in the anterior head region to relieve hydrocephalus.
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