Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

A liver hemangioma is a benign tumor which occurs as result of tangled blood vessels either in or on the surface of liver. They are non cancerous and usually do not cause any symptoms and therefore do not require treatment. In fact most of the people who have liver hemangioma do not even know they have it, until it is discovered during a test or procedure for some other condition.

Is Liver Hemangioma Life Threatening?

Since a liver hemangioma is a benign tumor it does not increase your risk for developing cancer and it is not life threatening in adults. The hemangioma is usually small in size measuring roughly about 1.5 inches or 4 centimeters in diameter. However, they can also grow larger in size that may cause symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Pregnant women and women on hormone replacement therapy are also at a higher risk of developing liver hemangioma because of the release of estrogen hormone that triggers the growth of hemangiomas. Mostly they are found to be single in number, but sometimes there can also be multiple hemangiomas of liver.

A liver hemangioma does not usually cause problems in adults; they can however be life threatening when it develops in infants. In babies liver hemangiomas are called infantile hemangioendothelioma and it is mostly diagnosed before the age of 6 months. It is a very rare condition and although this tumor is not cancerous, but it has been linked to increased incidences of heart failure.

They will usually not require any treatment until and unless they cause problematic symptoms and increase in size and number. A number of treatment options are available to ease the discomfort caused by hemangiomas.

Steroid injections are used to shrink the size of tumor. A large hemangioma needs to be surgically removed if it causes pain or damage to the liver. The removal of entire hemangioma can be done in cases where it can be separated easily or a portion of liver can be removed along with the hemangioma where the hemangioma does not separate easily.

Increased flow of blood can lead to a significant increase in size of a liver hemangioma and therefore the blood supply should be cut to the tumor. Here the doctor may perform hepatic artery ligation where the main hepatic artery is tied off that is supplying blood to the hemangioma. It does not compromise the blood supply of other areas, as they continue to receive blood from other arteries and remain healthy. In some cases arterial embolization can also be done where a medication is injected into the artery to block the blood supply of the hemangioma that causes shrinking of the tumor and destruction of tumor cells.

When all other treatment options fail, a liver transplant may be required. In this the patients damaged liver is replaced with the donor’s healthy liver. This is mostly required in cases of large or multiple liver hemangiomas.

Radiation therapy might also be used to shrink the size of tumor. However this is very rarely used due to its lack of availability.

Symptoms of Liver Hemangioma

Small hemangiomas do not cause symptoms, but if they are larger in size they can cause symptoms such as pain in the right upper quadrant, nausea, vomiting and feeling of fullness even after taking small meals. The symptoms can also aggravate as a result of an injury or due to increased estrogen levels in the body.

The cause of liver hemangiomas is not clear; it is however known to be hereditary. It mostly affects women between the age group of 30-50 years while some hemangiomas are simply birth defects when found in infants.

How Do You Diagnose A Liver Hemangioma?

It is usually found accidentally during a test or procedure for another disease or condition since it does not cause any significant symptoms.

A doctor discovers it during imaging techniques such as an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI. The detailed pictures of organs and their surrounding structures help the doctors in identifying the hemangioma.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: September 25, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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