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What Is a Liver Hemangioma?

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on June 25, 2020

A liver hemangioma is a type of noncancerous (benign) growth in your liver. Your doctor might call it a hepatic hemangioma.

The hemangioma, or tumor, is a tangle of blood vessels. It’s the most common noncancerous growth in the liver. It’s rarely serious and doesn’t turn into liver cancer even when you don’t treat it.

Causes

Anyone can get a liver hemangioma, but it most often happens in your 30s, 40s, and 50s. Women are three times more likely to get it than men are. The reason is unclear.

Doctors also don’t know exactly what triggers a hemangioma to form in your liver. But studies suggest that your genes may be involved.

Researchers believe that other things may play a role in making the tumor or helping it get bigger. They include:

Symptoms

Hemangiomas can grow in many parts of your body, such as your skin, muscle, bones, and other organs.

You likely won’t have any symptoms of a liver hemangioma unless the mass is bigger than 5 centimeters, which is uncommon. Rare hemangiomas that are larger than 10 centimeters may cause such symptoms as:

It’s possible for a liver hemangioma to bleed or to form blood clots that trap fluid. You might feel pain in your belly.

Diagnosis

Doctors usually find liver hemangiomas while checking the organ for something else with an imaging test. They might include:

If something looks suspicious in these images, you may need more imaging and blood tests to zero in on a diagnosis.

In addition, your doctor will ask you about details of your medical history, and especially if you’ve had cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or any type of cancer in your liver or elsewhere.

Treatment

A liver hemangioma usually can be left alone. But your doctor may want to monitor it with imaging testing once or twice a year to see if it grows. That happens in about one in 10 cases. Scientists don’t know why this happens to some growths and not others.

No drugs can treat liver hemangiomas. If the mass gets too big too quickly, or causes pain, you might need surgery to remove it.

Embolization is another option. Your surgeon inserts a thin tube called a catheter through a cut in your skin to block certain blood vessels that feed the hemangioma. This can slow its growth or even shrink it.

It’s very likely that even if you have a liver hemangioma, you won’t find out.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Hemangioma.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Liver Hemangioma.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Liver: Anatomy and Functions.”

Mayo Clinic: “Liver hemangioma.”

Medscape: “Hepatic Hemangiomas,” “Multiple liver hemangiomas enlargement during long-term steroid therapy for myasthenia gravis,” “Sex hormones and risk of liver cancer.”

RadiologyInfo.org: “Catheter Embolization.”

The Nemours Foundation: “Your Liver.”

UpToDate: “Hepatic hemangioma.”

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