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Caliber-persistent labial artery. A common vascular anomaly.

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Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Sciences, Faculty of Dentistry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Sixteen cases of caliber-persistent labial artery of the lips have been reported to date in the English literature. Six of these were clinically misdiagnosed as squamous cell carcinoma and treated with wedge resection. To date, we have seen 187 cases clinically and an additional 23 cases through our surgical oral pathology services. Careful clinical observation usually reveals a soft linear or papular bluish elevation above the labial mucosal surface. The unique feature is pulsation--not simply pulsation toward and away from the observer, which can be caused by an underlying artery, but lateral pulsation, which only an artery can exhibit. All but 2 of our 187 clinical cases were asymptomatic. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of caliber-persistent labial artery of the upper lip. The upper:lower lip ratio for the clinical cases was almost 2:1. Three times as many lower lip as upper lip lesions were biopsied. Males and females were almost equally affected (clinical cases, 76:86; histopathologic cases, 9:13). Although a vascular term (artery, hemangioma, phlebolith, varix, vascular malformation) was used on the biopsy form in one half of the clinical differential diagnoses, none of the clinical histories mentioned pulsation. In contrast to the cases of Miko et al. in 1980 and 1983, none of our cases manifested itself as an ulcer, nor was carcinoma ever mentioned in the clinical differential diagnosis. The purpose of this article is to familiarize clinicians and pathologists with the clinical and histopathologic features of this seldom reported but common vascular anomaly. Clinicians should carefully look for lateral pulsation in lip mucosal papules so as to avoid unnecessary surgery and intraoperative arterial bleeding. Pathologists should recognize that a relatively large-caliber superficial artery in a lip biopsy may not be an incidental finding but rather the clinical lesion that was biopsied.

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