Liver hemangioma is a non-cancerous (benign) mass in the liver. They usually consist of tangled blood vessels. They are usually harmless and mostly asymptomatic. Liver hemangiomas are also known as hepatic or cavernous hemangiomas. Since they are benign (they do not turn malignant or cancerous) and asymptomatic they do not usually require any treatment.
However, sometimes hemangiomas may increase in size leading to discomfort in the abdomen. It is then; the treatment of hemangioma is required.
How Do you Treat a Liver Hemangioma?
A liver hemangioma can be diagnosed by an ultrasound, CT scan and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) which will confirm the abnormalities in the liver.
In most cases, there is no need of treatment, but in cases where it might lead to complications a number of treatment options are available. It is often large and multiple hemangiomas that require treatment.
Medications such as corticosteroid therapy may be used to shrink the size of tumor. Other treatment options include surgeries to remove liver hemangioma where it can be easily separated from the liver, surgery to remove part of liver where the hemangioma is removes along with a portion of liver.
Other procedures can be done to restrict blood flow to the hemangioma. When there will be no blood supply to the tumor it will shrink in size. In this method the doctors either tie off the main hepatic artery (hepatic artery ligation) or inject medication into it to stop the blood flow (arterial embolization). Radiation therapy is also used to kill tumor cells with the use of powerful X-ray beams. This method is rarely used since it not readily available in most centers and also because its safety and effectiveness are questionable.
Liver transplant surgery is indicated in cases where the liver hemangioma cannot be treated by any other methods usually in the case of large and multiple hemangiomas. The liver is replaced with a healthy liver from the appropriate donor.
The prognosis of liver hemangiomas is positive in the long run since it rarely leads to complications. Due to its benign nature it does not cause any health problems as well. Any symptoms suggesting hemangioma enlargement such as pain in the right upper quadrant, nausea and vomiting should be given attention. It is also important to take care of your liver by restricting use of alcohol and tobacco. The weight of a person must also be kept under check, which can prevent any serious liver conditions and complications in the future.
Signs and Symptoms of Hemangiomas
They can be either single or multiple in number, although it is more common to have just one. They can either occur on the skin externally or inside the body, including the surface of organs such as liver.
Mostly liver hemangiomas do not cause any symptoms but when they do they include pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, nausea, vomiting and feeling of fullness after eating food (even in small amounts).
The cause of liver hemangiomas is not clear, however the doctors believe it is congenital in nature. It occurs as a result of abnormal collection of blood vessels ranging in the size of about 4 centimeters (approximately 1.5 inches). Very rarely these hemangiomas will be large in size i.e., over 2 inches and multiple in number, which may cause complications and require treatment.
Risk Factors and Complications of Liver Hemangioma
It mostly affects people above the age of 30 years, and is more common in women. Pregnancy can be a causative factor as the hormone estrogen that rises during pregnancy is believed to play a role in the growth of hemangioma. Hormonal replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms is also known to trigger the growth of liver hemangiomas.
Complications include high risk pregnancies due to a rise in hormone estrogen, which may cause liver hemangioma to grow. Medicines such as birth control pills might lead to complications as they affect hormone levels in the body. Therefore before a pregnancy one should consult a doctor and discuss the risk factors.
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