Spinal Hemangioma

Overview

Hemangiomas are noncancerous (benign) tumors made of abnormal blood vessels. They’re common and can occur anywhere in the body: your skin, muscles, internal organs or bones. Most bone hemangiomas are on the spine and develop after age 50. Spinal hemangiomas usually appear in the middle of your back (thoracic area) or your lower back (lumbar area).

Symptoms

Only 5% of people with a hemangioma have symptoms. They’re often discovered accidentally during an X-ray or other imaging test of your spine. When hemangioma symptoms do occur, they may include back pain, pain that radiates outward from your back and numbness or weakness.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a spinal hemangioma, you might need an MRI or CT scan to look for damage to your nerves, spinal column or spinal canal, as well as compression of your spinal cord. Your doctor may also prescribe an X-ray to look for a specific honeycomb- or lattice-shaped mass within your bone. 

If your spinal hemangioma is found accidentally – if you don’t have any symptoms – you may not need to do anything about it. But it’s important to get treatment for a painful hemangioma, as it may affect your movements. In rare cases, it may cause paralysis.

Treatment Options

Treatments for spinal hemangiomas include:

  • Embolization: This minimally invasive procedure will stop blood flow to the tumor.
  • Ethanol injections: Injections of alcohol (ethanol) will encourage blood clotting within the tumor to prevent bleeding.
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery to remove the vertebra (vertebrectomy) or vertebra bones (laminectomy). 

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