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Classification & external resources
A capillary haemangioma
ICD-10 D18.0
ICD-9 228.0
ICD-O: M9120/0
DiseasesDB 30033
MedlinePlus 001459
eMedicine orthoped/499 
MeSH D006391

A hemangioma is an abnormal build up of blood vessels in the skin or internal organs.[1] It is also described as a congenital benign skin lesion consisting of dense, usually elevated masses of dilated blood vessels".[2] In most cases, hemangiomas will disappear over time. They are formed either during gestation or appear during the first few weeks of life and may present as a birthmark. Hemangiomas are the most common childhood tumor occurring in approximately ten percent of Caucasians, and are less prevalent in other races. Females are three to five times more likely to have hemangiomas than males. Hemangiomas can be vivid superficial lesions, known as capillary hemangiomas (often referred to as "Strawberry Marks"), or they can be deep bluish swelling, known as cavernous hemangiomas. Sometimes they can be both superficial and deep. Approximately eighty percent are located on the face and neck, with the next most prevalent location being the liver. Although hemangiomas are benign, some serious complications can occur.

The cause of hemangioma is currently unknown; however, several studies have suggested the importance of estrogen signaling in hemangioma proliferation. In 2007, a paper from the Stanford Children's Surgical Laboratory revealed that localized soft tissue hypoxia coupled with increased circulating estrogen after birth may be the stimulus.[3] There is also a hypothesis presented by researchers at Harvard and the University of Arkansas that maternal placenta embolizes to the fetal dermis during gestation resulting in hemangiomagenesis,[4][5] yet Duke researchers conducted genetic analyses of small nucleotide polymorphisms in hemangioma tissue compared to the mother's DNA that contradicted this notion.[6] More research is required in order to fully understand the explosive nature of hemangioma growth which will hopefully yield targeted therapeutics to treat its most complicated presentations.



The vast majority of hemangiomas are not associated with complications. Hemangiomas may break down on the surface to form ulcers. If the ulceration is deep, significant bleeding may rarely occur. Ulceration on the diaper area can be painful and problematic.

If a hemangioma develops in the larynx, breathing can be compromised. A hemangioma can grow and block one of the eyes, causing an occlusion amblyopia. Very rarely, extremely large hemangiomas can cause high-output heart failure due to the amount of blood that must be pumped to excess blood vessels. Lesions adjacent to bone can also cause erosion of the bone.

The most frequent complaints about hemangiomas, however, stem from psychosocial complications: the condition can affect a person's appearance and can provoke attention and malicious reactions from others. Particular problems occur if the lip or nose is involved, as distortion can be difficult to treat surgically.


Most hemangiomas disappear without treatment, leaving minimal or no visible marks. Large hemangiomas can leave visible skin changes secondary to severe stretching of the skin or damage to surface texture. When hemangiomas interfere with vision, breathing, or threaten significant cosmetic injury, they are usually treated. The mainstay of treatment is oral corticosteroid therapy. Other drugs such as interferon or vincristine are sometimes considered if the corticosteroids do not work. If this fails, surgical removal often becomes necessary. Blockage of the airway will often require a tracheostomy to be performed (insertion of an external airway through the front of the neck into the trachea below the level of the obstruction). Smaller raised lesions are sometimes treated with injection of corticosteroid directly into the lesion. Pulsed dye laser can be useful for very early flat lesions if they appear in cosmetically significant areas or for those lesions that leave residual surface blood vessels in the case of incomplete resolution.

Ulceration will usually heal with topical medication and special dressings under medical supervision. Sometimes pulsed dye laser can be used to accelerate healing.


Hemangiomas go through three stages of development and decay:

  1. In the proliferation stage, a hemangioma grows very quickly. This stage can last up to twelve months.
  2. In the rest stage, there is very little change in a hemangioma's appearance. This usually lasts until the infant is one to two years old.
  3. In the involution phase, a hemangioma finally begins to diminish in size. Fifty percent of lesions will have disappeared by age five with the vast majority gone by puberty.


  1. ^ Hemangioma.
  2. ^ The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary. KMLE American Heritage Medical Dictionary definition of hemangioma.
  3. ^ Mark E. Kleinman, M.D., Department of Surgery, Stanford University, Stanford, CA. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.
  4. ^ Carmen Barnes, Department of Surgery, Harvard University, Boston, MA. PNAS.
  5. ^ Paula North, Department of Pathology, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, AK. Ophthalmology.
  6. ^ Kristianna Pittman, Department of Molecular Genetics, Duke University, Durham, NC. Nature Publishing Group.

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Hemangioma". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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