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A hepatic hemangioma is a benign tumor and is the most common tumor of the liver.

A liver hemangioma is usually a single tumor, and is mesenchymal in origin. The causes of these tumors are not clear; they may remain asymptomatic or may even cause severe complications. Symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite, and feelings of abdominal fullness. Treatment options include surgery and radiation therapy.

What Is A Hepatic Hemangioma?

A hepatic hemangioma is also known as cavernous hemangioma. These tumors are non-cancerous masses that are abnormal in size and arrangement. They usually consist of a solitary cluster of blood vessels, which is about 4 centimeters wide. In a few cases, these masses may become larger and grow in number as well.

These tumors of the liver can occur at any stage in life. However, they are most common between the ages of 30 and 50, and women are more likely to develop them than men.

Causes

The cause of a hepatic hemangioma remains unclear, but it is believed to be congenital (since birth) in origin.

Symptoms

Most people with a hepatic hemangioma will never exhibit any signs or symptoms throughout their lives, and the tumorous growth will never proliferate. However, a few people may develop complications if the tumor grows, leading to the development of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling of fullness despite eating only a little amount of food
  • Abdominal pain and tenderness in the upper right side
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting

Babies diagnosed with benign infantile hemangioendothelioma often present the following signs and symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Symptoms of heart failure
  • An abdominal growth

It must be noted that the above stated complications are non-specific and are not definitively indicative of a liver hemangioma.

Diagnosis

Various procedures and tests are used to diagnose a liver hemangioma. The type of test to be performed is determined according to the signs and symptoms being exhibited. These include:

  • Ultrasound
  • CT-Scan (Computerized Tomography Scan)
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • SPECT-Scan (Single-photon Emission Computerized Tomography Scan)

Treatment Options

If the liver hemangioma becomes symptomatic and starts to exert pressure on adjacent abdominal structures, treatment will be required to relieve and prevent the resulting symptoms. The location, size and number of the hemangiomas, the severity of the symptoms, and the overall health status of the individual determine the form of treatment.

Surgical Options

  • Removing the Hemangioma

This form of surgery is performed if the tumor can be easily separated and excised from the liver.

  • Removing a Part of the Liver and the Hemangioma

In certain cases, such as a very large or penetrating tumor, a part of the liver will also be removed along with the hemangioma.

  • Restricting the Blood Flow to the Hemangioma

Restricting blood flow to the hemangioma will stop its supply of nutrients, causing it to shrivel and die, whereas the healthy liver tissue remains unharmed. This can be done by tying the main artery supplying blood to the hemangioma (hepatic artery ligation), or by injecting medication into the artery to block its supply of blood (arterial embolization).

  • Liver Transplant

This is extremely rare, and may be required if there is a very large hemangioma or various hemangiomas which cannot be effectively excised or treated.

Radiation Therapy

X-rays are used to damage the cells of the hemangioma. However, this is a very rare treatment option.

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