Liver hemangiomas are often discovered while investigating the liver for other concerns. To confirm a diagnosis, common tests include:
- Ultrasound provides a contrast-enhanced images of the liver. During the procedure, the body tissues are subjected to high-frequency sound waves, and the echoes are captured and converted into images.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scanning creates images of a cross-section of the body using X-rays and technology. To allow detailed examination, the device takes photographs that reveal very tiny “slices” of the liver.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a method that produces precise images of the liver using a large magnet, radio waves and a computer. It does not use radiation.
- Scintigraphy, a nuclear scan that creates an image of the hemangioma using the radioactive trace element called technetium-99m (Tc-99m).
In some cases, the doctor may require additional imaging and blood test to confirm the diagnosis. The patient’s medical history and other risk factors also contributes to correct diagnosis.
Most liver hemangiomas are small and require no treatment. It may resolve on its own over time. However, the doctor may suggest keeping it under observation. To keep track of any changes, an imaging scan once or twice a year is recommended. The majority of hemangiomas never change or expand. If they do, it typically happens slowly—about 2mm annually.
Liver hemangiomas may require a more thorough monitoring and treatment. The treatment options for liver hemangiomas vary on the location, size of the tumor, number of hemangioma and general health of the patient.
Possible treatments for people with liver hemangiomas include:
- Surgical removal of liver hemangioma: The doctor might advise surgery to remove the lump if the hemangioma can be easily detached from the liver.
- Surgical removal of the part of the liver that includes the hemangioma: If the mass is too attached in the liver, the doctor may recommend removing it together with the portion of the liver.
- Blocking the hemangioma’s blood supply: Through hepatic artery ligation and arterial embolization, the hemangioma may cease to develop or shrink if there is no blood flow. Because it has access to neighboring blood arteries, healthy liver tissue is unaffected.
- Liver transplant: The doctor may suggest surgery to remove the liver and replace it with a liver from a donor in cases that the hemangiomas are numerous and massive and that other methods failed to cure it.
- Radiation therapy: Due to the availability of safer and more efficient therapies, this one is often the last option. Strong energy beams, like X-rays, are used in radiation therapy to harm the hemangioma’s cells.