Hemangiomas are benign tumors that usually develop within the first few weeks of life. These tumors have usually disappeared in 50% of cases by time children are aged 5 years and almost all cases by time they are aged 10.
Mostly, the hemangiomas disappear without the need for treatment and leave no visible sign that they were ever present. Large hemangiomas, however, can stretch the skin or damage its surface, therefore leaving visible skin changes. In cases where hemangioma are causing complications such as breathing difficulties or visual disturbances, treatment is usually required.
Some of the therapeutic approaches to treating a hemangioma are described below.
- Oral corticosteroids are one of the main treatment approaches, although alternative therapies have been made available recently.
- Corticosteroid injections may be administered directly into smaller lesions.
- The anti-cancer agents interferon or vincristine may be used in cases where first-line therapy fails.
- If the hemangioma is blocking an airway, a tracheostomy may be performed. Tracheostomy is an emergency surgical procedure where a breathing tube is inserted through the front of the neck into the trachea below the obstructed area, thereby creating an external airway.
- Surgery may be recommended in cases where treatment has become delayed and the hemangioma has caused permanent structural changes.
- Cosmetic surgery may be required to correct deformity of the facial features in cases where treatment has failed or been delayed.
- Superficial lesions of the skin may respond to pulsed dye laser therapy, if they are small, flat lesions.
- Raised lesions or those that form under the skin do not respond to pulsed dye laser therapy. Any ulceration that has occurred can usually be treated with topical medications and skin dressings.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc