Diseases

What are liver hemangiomas?

A liver hemangioma is characterized as a benign lump that appears on the liver. These lumps are just a mass of blood vessels and are not dangerous for health. As per estimation, nearly 1% to 5% of adults in the United States have liver hemangiomas that are usually asymptomatic.

Such hemangioma does not necessarily require a treatment. Only those that grow large in size, cause pain or any discomfort needs a treatment. This article will discuss symptoms, treatments, and diagnosis of a liver hemangioma.

What is a hemangioma?

Hemangioma is a lump made of blood vessels. Sometimes they appear on the skin and sometimes they develop inside the body. One of the examples is the liver hemangioma that grows on the liver.

Hemangiomas are not cancerous. The size of a hemangioma is less than 5cm. Usually, it appears solo but some people may experience multiple hemangiomas. The liver hemangioma is also called a hepatic hemangioma or a cavernous hemangioma.

What are liver hemangiomas?

Common symptoms of liver hemangioma

Hemangiomas of the liver have no symptoms. As they are small in size, it is really hard to feel a discomfort or pain. There is rarely any symptom. In the case of multiple hemangiomas, the size grows larger than 4.5cm.

When a large hemangioma appears, it may show any of the following symptoms.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Discomfort
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • A fullness feeling after eating a small meal

In chronic cases, a larger hemangioma may also rupture. This may affect the function of the liver and may bleed into the abdomen. It can also cause a heart failure, which in this case may be fatal.

Why is a hemangioma formed?

There is no specific reason for what causes a liver hemangioma. Doctors are not sure but many of them believe that it may be present from the birth. However, this is not the only condition. The hemangioma may appear at any stage of life. It affects people between 30 years to 50 years of the age more. For some reason, women are more likely to get it.

What are liver hemangiomas?

How to diagnose a hemangioma?

If a hemangioma is large in size and it is showing the symptoms, the doctor may require imaging tests to check the exact abnormalities in the liver. Some of the tests that he requires are as follows.

  • CT Scan
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI

Mostly, people are not even aware that they have a liver hemangioma. And only the imaging report, read by a doctor when testing for another condition reveals it.

Is there a treatment for it?

Hemangiomas usually don’t require a treatment if they are not causing a problem for anyone. There is no evidence to suggest that an untreated hemangioma went out of the hands. Also, there is no record of a hemangioma turning into liver cancer.

But depending upon the location, size, and number, some hemangioma may need a treatment. Usually, the large size hemangioma requires a treatment. The possible options for treating a liver hemangioma include the following.

  • Medication: Usually corticosteroids are given to the patients
  • Blocking the hemangioma’s blood supply: The doctors may perform a minor process to cut the blood supply to hemangioma, which will stop its growth. This process is called selective hepatic artery embolization or hepatic artery ligation.
  • Surgery to remove it: A doctor may also remove a hemangioma when he finds it possible to be separated from the liver surface. It may require removing a small part of liver too.
  • Liver transplant: The last treatment for a liver hemangioma is a liver transplant. It is rarely performed. Usually, the cases of an extremely large or multiple hemangiomas that are untreatable by any other way need this option.

What are liver hemangiomas?

Complications of a liver hemangioma

Most of the times, the liver hemangioma does not cause any complications. But in case of pregnancy or the patients taking estrogen supplements and birth control pills are more likely to experience some complications from liver hemangiomas.

The most common complication is that the size of a hemangioma increases. During pregnancy, the levels of estrogen are high. There may be a chance that having a hemangioma during pregnancy increase its size. Women can get pregnant while having a hemangioma. In that case, discuss this with your doctor in detail.

Many people consider that hemangioma is a tumor or a type of cancer. There is no evidence for any of these to be true. People without a liver hemangioma also develop liver cancer so having a hemangioma doesn’t have any role in it.

The final word

Liver hemangiomas are a type of benign liver tumor but they don’t lead to cancer. There are usually no symptoms when you have a hemangioma and it doesn’t require any medical attention.

Only in the case when the size of hemangioma is huge and causing a discomfort, you need a treatment. Liver hemangioma rarely causes a complication. If you suspect that you have a liver hemangioma, speak to your doctor about it and confirm it with the imaging tests.

Sources

 

Areeba Hussain

The author is a Medical Microbiologist and a healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. She is an author of six research papers and currently working as a research associate in a Research Lab.

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