A liver hemangioma, also known as hepatic hemangioma, is the most common noncancerous condition in the liver. This benign mass is composed of abnormal blood vessels from the hepatic artery.
The majority of liver hemangiomas are not life-threatening, do not present with signs and symptoms, and will not require any treatment or interventions. Even if left untreated, they will not develop into cancer. In some cases, they only produce symptoms when they get particularly big.
Hepatic hemangiomas affect up to 20% of the population. Many liver hemangiomas are found incidentally while investigating for other conditions. Although it is considered a mass, it does not suggest that anything is wrong with the liver and will not harm it either.
Most cases of hepatic hemangiomas do not develop any signs and symptoms. In some symptomatic case, the signs and symptoms of are as follows:
- Upper right abdominal pain
- Early satiety (fullness after eating a small portion)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bloating after meal
- Lack of appetite
Even if you have a hepatic hemangioma, similar signs and symptoms can also occur but is caused by a different condition. These symptoms are generally unspecific and may be a result of something else, as liver hemangiomas rarely have signs and symptoms.
It is recommended to visit a healthcare provider if any of the signs and symptoms occur and affects one’s daily activities.
Liver hemangiomas develop from unknown causes. Research suggests that the genes play a role. It may be congenital or genetically inherited. It can affect both adults and children.
Most liver hemangiomas have an average size of 3 centimeters or approximately 1.5 inches wide. It typically develops from a single aberrant cluster of blood vessel. In rare cases, small hemangiomas can develop into “giant hemangiomas” which can grow up to 10 centimeters or more. Occasionally, hemangiomas can develop in groups.
There is no known reason why most hemangiomas never grow and never manifests any symptoms. Only a small percentage of people will experience symptoms from a hepatic hemangioma and will need medical attention.
A hepatic hemangioma can occur in anyone, but there are factors that increases one’s risk, such as:
- Age: Liver hemangiomas most frequently occurs in people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.
- Sex: It affects women three times more frequently than men. The rise in estrogen especially during female puberty increases the risk that a liver hemangioma can occur and grow faster.
- Pregnancy: The increase in estrogen level, especially during pregnancy, can affect the development of liver hemangiomas. Compared to women who have never been pregnant, women who have experience pregnancy are more likely to have a hepatic hemangioma.
- Hormone replacement therapy: Liver hemangiomas may be diagnosed more frequently in women who are prescribed with hormone replacement treatment (estrogen or estrogen combined with progestin) for menopausal symptoms than in those who do not.