Liver hemangioma is a benign tumor that occurs as a result of tangled blood vessels in the liver. It is a noncancerous tumor, which does not usually cause any signs and symptoms in the patient making it harmless in nature. Most of the time a person who has liver hemangioma is not aware of it. It is diagnosed accidentally when a person undergoes tests and procedures for some other medical condition.
Is Hemangioma in the Liver Dangerous?
Hemangiomas of the liver are usually small in size ranging around 4 centimeters or 1.5 inches in diameter approximately. They rarely grow larger in size or multiple in number and they are not dangerous. They affect women more than men usually in the age group of 30 to 50 years. Pregnant women are at a risk of developing hemangioma due to the release of hormone estrogen that triggers the growth of hemangiomas in the liver. Women using birth control pills that alter the levels of hormones in the body are also at a risk of developing hemangiomas. Women who are undergoing hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal symptoms are more likely to be diagnosed with liver hemangiomas. It is important for a pregnant woman diagnosed with liver hemangioma to consult a doctor about the risks and complications she might encounter during her pregnancy.
How Do You Identify A Liver Hemangioma?
A small liver hemangioma rarely causes symptoms, but when they increase in size they may cause symptoms such as pain in the right upper quadrant of abdomen, nausea, vomiting and feeling of fullness even after taking small meals.
Hemangiomas are mostly found in adults but they can also occur in infants very rarely and prove to be life threatening on them. They usually occur as birth defect in babies.
Liver hemangioma is most often diagnosed accidentally when a person undergoes series of tests and procedures for other medical conditions. The imaging techniques in which a liver hemangioma can be diagnosed are an ultrasound, CT scan and MRI. The detailed pictures provided by these techniques help a doctor identify the liver abnormalities and the surrounding structures.
Treatment and Management of Liver Hemangiomas
Hemangiomas that are small and single in number can be left as it is without any treatment. It is because these hemangiomas do not cause any symptoms or significant problems to the patient. However, a check on its size is required and it should be closely monitored to prevent symptomatic problems and also look for symptoms associated with large hemangiomas such as consistent pain in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting.
There are a number of treatment options available to ease the symptoms associated with hemangiomas and depend on the size, location and overall health of the patient.
The procedures that can be done are surgeries to remove hemangioma if it can be easily separated from the liver. In other cases where the hemangioma is adherent to the liver and cannot be separated a portion of liver along with the hemangioma needs to be removed.
Since the hemangioma grows in size when it has a good blood supply, restriction of blood flow to the tumor can help shrink the hemangioma. The procedures to stop the blood flow to the hemangioma include hepatic artery ligation where the main artery supplying blood to the tumor is ligated or tied off that result in shrinking of the hemangioma and destruction of its cells. Another procedure that is used is arterial embolization where the medication is injected into the artery to block it and prevent blood from flowing through it. It does not compromise the blood flow of the healthy liver tissue as it can draw blood from the surrounding vessels.
A liver transplant may be suggested in rare cases where all the other methods of treatment have failed. The patient’s liver is replaced with the donor’s healthy liver. It is mostly required in case of very large hemangiomas and multiple hemangiomas. Radiation therapy is also used although very rarely to shrink the size of tumors.
Overall the prognosis of liver hemangioma is good in people who have been diagnosed with it. They can lead a normal and healthy long life without further complications.