Congenital Hemangiomas

Congenital hemangiomas are non-cancer tumors made up of thickened skin and many thin-walled blood vessels. These blood vessels often have a high rate of blood flowing through them.

The cause of congenital hemangiomas is unknown. However, they are:

  • Not related to drugs or medications taken during pregnancy
  • Not related to being exposed to things in the environment during pregnancy

Types of congenital hemangiomas include:

  • Rapidly involuting congenital hemangiomas (RICH) – Rapidly shrink during the first year of life, and may be completely gone by 18 months old
  • Noninvoluting congenital hemangiomas (NICH) – Fully developed at birth, and do not shrink.

Congenital hemangiomas are most often found on the head, neck or limbs, but can also occur in the liver. They can be flat or may look like a mass sticking up from the skin. They are usually purple/red with a “halo” or lighter area around them.

Complications are uncommon, but they can occur with either RICH or NICH, especially if they are large in size, or in an internal organ, such as the liver. Because of their high rate of blood flow, congenital hemangiomas can cause:

The RICH form of congenital hemangiomas do not usually require treatment since they shrink quickly on their own. Decisions to treat these or NICH must be made on an individual basis. The specialists considers such things as:

  • How well the child can function physically
  • Preventing permanent disfigurement
  • The emotional impact of the lesion

All children with significant congenital hemangiomas should have a thorough exam with follow–up by a doctor. Medications used to treat infantile hemangiomas are usually not effective for congenital hemangiomas. In most cases, simply monitoring the hemangioma is the best course to follow, especially if it is not hurting a child’s ability to function.

Surgery may be needed for complicated congenital hemangiomas, including:

  • Those in the liver
  • Those that are causing problems with bleeding or heart failure