Hemangioma is a benign tumor arising from blood vessels. It is very common and usually harmless disorder. Visible hemangiomas can occur on the skin and in the subcutaneous tissue, but often they are located in internal organs. Some types of hemangiomas are congenital, other develop during life.


Hemangioma occurrence is often related to genetics and age. Subcutaneous and skin hemangiomas are often formed in childhood; many of them are already present at birth. Hemangioma is definitely the most common benign tumor of children. The positive fact is that the vast majority of these inherited hemangiomas disappear spontaneously. Hemangiomas often affect the internal organs, especially liver tissue. They are frequent in women long-term using the hormonal contraception.


The most obvious are the subcutaneous and skin hemangiomas. Superficial skin hemangioma of childhood’s age, which is usually located in the head and neck, is called "nevus flammeus". Hemangioma is a lesion consisting of expanded blood vessels. Its superficial forms therefore look like larger or smaller red bumps, the subcutaneous hemangiomas are more purplish. The purple color is due to show-through of red blood through the skin cover. Deep organ hemangiomas are usually asymptomatic and can be diagnosed randomly by an imaging method (e.g. ultrasonography). These hemangiomas manifest usually by their complications, especially by bleeding. The bleeding may follow an injury or occur spontaneously, in case of liver it may causes unpleasant abdominal pain and liver enlargement. In addition, growing hemangioma can oppress nearby tissues resulting in other complications. An eyelid hemangioma can disrupt the field of vision, growing hemangioma in airway mucosa can interfere with breathing and hemangiomas in the ear canal may cause failure of sound perception.


Skin and subcutaneous hemangiomas are well-seen by naked eye, organ hemangiomas are usually fond by ultrasound, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.


It is necessary to prevent injury of already known larger hemangiomas as their hemorrhage may be quite massive.


Skin and subcutaneous hemangiomas are often not treated at all as they are usually self-limiting. The physicians try to treat larger and anatomically inappropriately located hemangiomas that worsen the child's life quality (such as hemangiomas of eyelid or ear canal). Short-term corticotherapy may cause narrowing of hemangioma's blood vessels and laser therapy also has successes. The laser disrupts the blood vessels without damaging the nearby skin. Surgical removal of large hemangiomas is used only rarely because of risk of permanent scars.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources