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What Causes a Liver Hemangioma?

written by: Emma Lloyd • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 6/26/2010

A liver hemangioma is a non-cancerous tumor that forms in the liver from dilated blood vessels. They are not usually harmful in adults. Learn here about what causes a liver hemangioma.

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    Hepatic Hemangioma

    Liver hemangioma is a benign (non-cancerous) liver tumor which forms when malformed blood vessels become ‘tangled.' The tangled blood vessels form a clump that is usually two inches or less in diameter. The clump of blood vessels becomes a liver hemangioma, which remains benign and is not usually harmful. In some cases, the liver hemangioma causes pain, but there are usually no symptoms. There is no evidence to suggest that a liver hemangioma can become cancerous, or can eventually lead to the development of liver cancer.

    For the most part, people with a liver hemangioma don’t experience any symptoms or signs and don’t know they have the condition. Most people who are diagnosed with liver hemangioma only find out the tumor exists when they are undergoing a procedure or test for another medical condition.

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    Causes of Liver Hemangiomas

    What causes a liver hemangioma to form? There are several possible direct and indirect causes of liver hemangiomas, but experts have not yet been able to say for sure whether there are any specific conditions that lead to the development of a hemangioma. Some experts believe that the condition is congenital, meaning that people with liver hemangiomas are born with them.

    In some cases, women with who are taking medications that contain estrogen (such as hormone replacement therapy) may find that the medication causes a liver hemangioma to grow in size. In some cases the hemangioma may grow to a size that requires surgery, but this is a rare occurrence. Women usually have larger tumors than men, and are more likely overall to have liver hemangioma, supporting the theory that the occurrence and size of liver hemangioma may be hormone-related.

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    Benign Infantile Hemangioendothelioma

    Babies can develop a type of hemangioma called an infantile hemangioendothelioma. This, too, is non-cancerous, but in infants can increase risk of heart failure and sudden death. Babies born with this condition are usually diagnosed within six months after birth. Again, any factor that causes a liver hemangioma to develop is unknown, but it is known that the condition develops in utero. This condition is usually treatable with surgery to remove the hemangioma.

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    References

    Liver Hemangioma at the Mayo Clinic

    eMedicine: Liver Hemangioma

    MedlinePlus Information on Liver Hemangioma