About Liver Hemangioma (Hepatic Hemangioma, Cavernous Hemangioma)
Liver hemangioma is a benign (noncancerous) mass or a clump of blood vessels in the liver. This tangle of blood vessels sometimes called a hepatic hemangioma or cavernous hemangioma.
Why is it Problematic?
There is no evidence to suggest that a liver hemangioma can lead to cancer. Women with a hemangioma may experience complications with pregnancy due to increased estrogen in the body. Estrogen is believed to cause growth of the hemangioma. Sometimes the liver hemangioma can rupture causing internal bleeding which could be life-threatening.
Causes and Risk Factors
Some people are born with liver hemangiomas. They are typically no greater than 1.5 inches wide, although they can sometimes be larger or occur in multiples. In most people they will never grow or cause any signs and symptoms. Liver hemangiomas are most commonly diagnosed in individuals aged 30-50.
Women are more likely than men to have liver hemangiomas. It is believed that this is a result of increased estrogen levels caused by hormonal contraceptive use, hormone replacement therapy, or pregnancy. Pregnant women may experience complication associated with liver hemangiomas due to an increase in estrogen. Estrogen is believed to cause the hemangioma to grow, which may require treatment.
If you have a liver hemangioma and are pregnant or wish to become pregnant, it is important to speak with doctor about any possible complications. Liver hemangiomas do not prevent women from becoming pregnant. If you have a liver hemangioma and wish to take hormonal birth control pills or hormone- replacement therapy, be sure to discuss any possible complications with your doctor.
There are usually no symptoms associated with liver hemangiomas. When symptoms are present, they generally include:
- Lack of appetite
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
- A feeling of fullness, even after eating a small amount of food
Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, MRI or SPECT scan can be used to diagnose a liver hemangioma.
Treatment and Prevention
Surgery may be performed to remove the mass and/or part of the liver. Blood flow-stopping procedures through hepatic artery ligation or via injected medication to block blood flow (arterial embolization) can be used. Without a blood supply, the mass may shrink or stop growing. The benefits of these procedures are that the liver tissue will remain healthy and can draw blood from other blood vessels. -Radiation is sometimes used, albeit rarely, to damage the liver hemangioma cells.
In very rare cases, a liver transplant may be necessary to treat a very large or heavily clustered liver hemangioma. This treatment is performed as a last resort.
As many as 7% of healthy people may have at least one liver hemangioma. Liver hemangiomas are often found in children and in adults over 40, and even more frequently in adults over 70. Liver hemangiomas in children often fade by the teenage years. Liver hemangiomas are 4-6 times more likely to occur in women than in men.