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Hepatic hemangioma

Michael P Curry, MD
Sanjiv Chopra, MD, MACP
Section Editor
Sanjiv Chopra, MD, MACP
Deputy Editor
Kristen M Robson, MD, MBA, FACG


Hepatic hemangiomas (also referred to as cavernous hemangiomas because of the cavernous vascular space seen histologically) are the most common benign mesenchymal hepatic tumors. In one series of 549 patients referred for magnetic resonance imaging for evaluation of focal hepatic lesion(s), 585 of 805 lesions (72 percent) were hemangiomas [1].

Hemangiomas are often solitary, but multiple lesions may be present in both the right and left lobe of the liver in up to 40 percent of patients [2]. They range in size from a few millimeters to over 20 cm. The majority are small (<5 cm). Those larger than 5 cm have been referred to as giant hemangiomas [3,4].

Most patients with hepatic hemangiomas are asymptomatic and have an excellent prognosis. Symptoms are more likely with large lesions. The diagnosis is often considered in patients found to have a focal liver lesion in whom hemangiomas need to be distinguished from other tumors. An approach to such patients is presented separately. (See "Solid liver lesions: Differential diagnosis and evaluation".)


Estimates of the prevalence of hepatic hemangiomas have ranged from 0.4 to 20 percent [5-8]. The highest estimates have been derived from autopsy studies, suggesting that these lesions are common in the general population [5,9]. This observation is confirmed by the increasing recognition of hemangiomas in asymptomatic patients undergoing radiologic imaging tests of the abdomen for other reasons.

Although they can be diagnosed at any age, 60 to 80 percent of cases are diagnosed in patients who are between the ages of 30 and 50 years. In adults, hemangiomas occur more frequently in women with a ratio of 3:1 [6,10]. Lesions responsible for symptoms are more likely in young women [4].

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 02, 2017.
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