Newborn Medical Series: Hemangiomas
What are hemangiomas?
Hemangiomas are mounds that form in the body when the blood vessels in that area grow in an abnormal way. They most often form on the skin and are usually pink or red, or skin colored with blotches of pink or red. These mounds are sometimes referred to as tumors, but they are not caused by cancer, and they are usually harmless.
Hemangiomas are most common in children. They are not usually visible at birth. Instead, they usually show up during the first few days or months of life. They can appear on any part of the body, but they are most common on the head or face. When they first show up, they can grow very quickly. Later on, they usually shrink and eventually disappear.
Are hemangiomas painful?
Not usually. Hemangiomas can look scary, but they don’t usually cause any harm. In rare cases, they can form sores, bleed, or get infected. When they form inside the body, they can cause serious problems.
Should my child see a doctor?
Yes, if your child develops a new mound somewhere on his or her body, see a doctor to determine if further testing or treatment is needed.
How are hemangiomas treated?
Most hemangiomas do not need to be treated. In some cases, doctors will treat a hemangioma if it:
Is very large or located in a part of the body where it can cause health problems, such as near the eye or in the liver
Could cause permanent harm to the child’s appearance
Gets sore, starts bleeding, or gets infected
When treatment is needed, doctors can prescribe a medicine called propranolol to shrink hemangiomas or to keep them from growing. They usually start the medicine as early as possible. That’s because hemangiomas tend to grow faster right after they first appear. Doctors don’t prescribe this medication in all cases because most hemangiomas go away without treatment. In some cases, doctors recommend surgery to remove the hemangioma, or a laser treatment to make it less visible.
When will the hemangioma go away?
This can be hard to predict, but here are the most common statistics:
50 percent of hemangiomas have gone away by the time a child turns 5
70 percent have gone away by the time the child turns 7
90 percent have gone away by the time the child turns 9
Keep in mind that your child’s skin might not look completely normal even after the hemangioma shrinks. Still, it makes sense to wait and see what happens to your child scan before starting treatments that might not be necessary.
For a more in-depth look at hemangiomas, please visit Boston Children’s Hospital website.
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Jeri Ford, RN, BSN, CPN
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