Hermangioma is a term used for a mass of small veins that become bunched up and dilated together. This condition can occur anywhere on the body. A liver hermangioma in particular is one that where the blood vessels mass up together in the liver and form a tumor. Liver hermagiomas are also known as hepatic or cavernous hermangiomas. Liver hermangiomas are not cancerous and usually consist of a mass that is less than two inches in diameter. The exact cause for this condition is not known. However, most medical experts believe that hermangiomas are birth defects.
People of all ages can have these tumors. This tumor like mass is commonly found in on in the liver in people between the ages of 30 and 50, although even infants can be born with one. Women are 6 times more likely to have a liver hermangioma than men, especially women who have been pregnant or who have been taking hormone replacement therapy. It is speculated that estrogen may play an important role in the development of these tumors in women. Women also typically have larger liver hermangiomas than those found in men. A liver hermangioma in an infant is called a benign infantile hermagioendothelioma.
These tumors are usually accidentally found when testing the liver for various other medical conditions is being done. Tests on the gall bladder or lungs can also reveal a liver tumor. Liver hermangiomas may not cause any symptoms at all for most people. The ones who do experience symptoms associated with a liver hermangioma usually complain of nausea, upper right abdominal pain just under the rib cage, vomiting and loss of appetite and resulting weight loss. Some liver hermangiomas can rupture and begin to bleed and cause interference with the functioning of other nearby organs. Testing done specifically to diagnose these benign liver tumors includes sonograms, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CAT) scans. An enlarged liver may by a sign of a liver hermangioma. Once a tumor is found on the liver other tests must be done to rule out cancer. Usually a baseline image from the MRI test is used to compare future MRIs that will need to be done every six months for up to five years.
This condition usually does not require any treatment unless the tumor is very large as the risk for it rupturing is greater. A large tumor can be surgically removed and there are very little risks involved with this type of surgery. The hospital stay can last 5 to 7 days. Recovering time after this surgery is about 6 weeks. If the patient has a tumor that is asymptomatic it will typically just be watched for changes. Some people can experience pain with a liver hermangioma that is often confused with gall bladder attacks. Another treatment is to tie off the artery that is leading to the tumor or an injection of medication can be given to stop the blood from flowing to the hermangioma. Radiation therapy is also sometimes used.
Liver hermangiomas can increase in size when a woman is pregnant because of increased levels of estrogen in her system. Most people do not need treatment for these types of tumors however unless it grows. Liver hermangiomas can continue to grow and even change shape over time. The location of the tumor can affect certain parts of the liver that tend to bleed more and will need to be removed. If the tumor is not removed most doctors advise the patient to wear a medical alert bracelet that will alert medical personnel to their condition during an emergency. Car accidents and other impact injuries can cause liver hermangiomas to bleed internally.