What Is a Liver Hemangioma?
A liver hemangioma is a tangled network of blood
vessels in or on the surface of the liver. This tumor is noncancerous and usually
doesn’t cause symptoms. In fact, most people don’t even know they have a liver
hemangioma. It’s usually only discovered during a test or procedure for an
unrelated condition. Even when they’re diagnosed, most liver hemangiomas don’t
A liver hemangioma is noncancerous and doesn’t increase your risk
of developing cancer. The tumor is usually small, measuring less than 4 centimeters
in diameter. In some cases, however, it can grow much larger. A larger tumor is
more likely to cause symptoms, such as abdominal pain and nausea. Pregnant
women and women using estrogen replacement therapy have a higher risk of developing
a large hemangioma. This is because estrogen may contribute to the growth of
Most people only have one liver hemangioma. However, it’s
possible for several hemangiomas to form on the liver at once.
A liver hemangioma typically doesn’t cause complications in
adults, but it can be more dangerous when it develops in infants. In babies, the
growth is called infantile hemangioendothelioma. It’s usually diagnosed before
the baby is 6 months old. This is a rare condition in infants. Although the
tumor isn’t cancerous, it has been linked to higher rates of heart failure.
What Are the Symptoms of a Liver Hemangioma?
In most cases, a liver hemangioma doesn’t cause symptoms.
However, symptoms can occur if the tumor has been aggravated by an injury or affected
by a change in estrogen levels.
Symptoms may include:
- pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
- a lack of appetite
Even if you have a liver hemangioma, these symptoms may be caused
by something else. Contact your doctor if you have any symptoms that worry you.
What Causes a Liver Hemangioma?
Doctors aren’t sure why blood vessels clump together and form a
liver hemangioma. However, they do believe that it has a genetic component,
which means it tends to run in families. Some liver hemangiomas may be birth
Who Is at Risk for a Liver Hemangioma?
People are at an increased for a liver hemangioma if they have family members
with liver hemangiomas. Those between ages 30 and 50 are also at a higher risk
for a liver hemangioma.
Women are more likely than men to develop a liver hemangioma.
Since estrogen is believed to fuel the growth of a hemangioma, the mass may be
larger in women as well. Women who use hormone replacement therapy to increase
their estrogen levels are also at an increased risk of developing a liver
How Is a Liver Hemangioma Diagnosed?
Since a liver hemangioma usually doesn’t cause symptoms, it often
goes undiagnosed. It’s typically found incidentally during a test or procedure for
another medical condition.
A liver hemangioma may be discovered during an imaging test, such
as an ultrasound, CT scan, or
MRI scan. These are low-risk, noninvasive tests that create pictures of various
organs and tissues inside the body. They make it possible for your doctor to
see the liver and its surrounding structures in more detail. If your doctor is
looking for other liver abnormalities, they may find a hemangioma.
How Is a Liver Hemangioma Treated?
Most liver hemangiomas don’t require treatment and only need
monitoring. However, a hemangioma may need to be removed surgically if it’s
large and causing symptoms. If it causes significant pain or damage to a part
of the liver, your doctor may decide to remove the entire affected section.
A liver hemangioma can grow if there’s a significant amount of
blood flowing to it. In this case, your doctor may tie off the main artery
that’s supplying blood to the hemangioma. The areas surrounding the liver will
get blood from other arteries and remain healthy. This surgical procedure is
known as hepatic artery ligation.
In other cases, your doctor may decide to inject a medication
into the hemangioma to block the blood supply, which leads to its eventual
destruction. This is called arterial
In very rare situations, a liver
transplant may be required. During this procedure, your damaged liver
is replaced with a donor’s liver. This is only necessary if the hemangioma is
extremely large or if multiple hemangiomas don’t respond to other treatments.
therapy may also be needed to shrink the mass. However, this is also an
extremely rare form of treatment.
What Are the Complications of a Liver Hemangioma?
Liver hemangiomas rarely cause any complications. Complications
that can arise in very rare cases include:
- enlarged hemangioma
- liver damage
- severe pain
Talk to your doctor about how you can reduce your risk for these
complications, especially if you’re pregnant, you’re using hormone therapy, or you
have liver disease.
What Is the Long-Term Outlook for People with a Liver Hemangioma?
A liver hemangioma rarely causes future complications. However, a
hemangioma may begin to cause problems if it increases in size. Pay attention
to any symptoms that could be related to an enlarged hemangioma, such as nausea,
vomiting, and persistent pain in your upper right abdomen.
It’s also important to take care of your liver. Drink in
moderation, maintain a healthy weight, and quit smoking if you’re a smoker.
These lifestyle changes can lower your risk of developing other, more serious liver