Haemangiomas form when cells that should be part of veins grow incorrectly. They can happen in many parts of your body. Strawberry birth marks are a type of haemangioma on the skin.
We do not know for sure what causes liver haemangiomas. It is thought that they start to form before you are born, when some of the blood vessels do not form properly. Hormones might also be involved in how the haemangioma grows.
Most haemangiomas are small and have no symptoms. Haemangiomas measuring more than 10cm are more likely to cause symptoms. These are sometimes called ‘‘giant haemangiomas”. Symptoms include:
- Tummy pain
- Feeling bloated or full
In very rare cases haemangiomas can cause a condition called Kasabach-Merritt syndrome (KMS). This is a serious condition that can cause problems with bleeding and bruising. Kasabach-Merritt syndrome usually only happens in babies and very young children.
Haemangiomas are often found by accident when you have a scan for something else.
The best test for confirming that you have a haemangioma is an MRI scan. This will help doctors to rule out other conditions that could be more of a problem.
An MRI scan does not hurt and should take about half an hour. Find out more about having an MRI scan here.
If you already have another liver condition you might have a type of ultrasound scan. This is called a contrast enhanced ultrasound scan. This is like a normal ultrasound scan but you will also have a small injection. The injection will contain lots of very tiny bubbles. You will be asked to lie still for about 5 minutes while the bubbles move around your body. You will then have the ultrasound scan. You can find out more about having an ultrasound scan here.
Most haemangiomas will never cause any problems. If you have no symptoms, the safest thing is to leave the haemangioma alone.
You will not need to keep coming back for checks on your haemangioma.
If you do start to have symptoms that might be caused by your haemangioma you should speak to your doctor. They will be able to do more tests and refer you to a specialist. In very rare cases you might be offered surgery. This is only needed when the haemangioma is causing severe symptoms.
Liver haemangiomas are almost always harmless. You should be able to carry on with life as normal.
There are no supplements, complementary, alternative, or natural medicines that have been shown to help with haemangiomas.
Even though liver haemangioma is a benign condition, it can be worrying to be told that you have a tumour in your liver. The British Liver trust offers support to everyone living with a liver condition. You can find out more here.
Published on: 10/08/2023
Review due: 10/08/2026