Tests and procedures used to diagnose liver hemangiomas include:
- Ultrasound, an imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the liver
- Computerized tomography (CT) scanning, which combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images (slices) of the liver
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the liver
- Scintigraphy, a type of nuclear imaging that uses a radioactive tracer material to produce images of the liver
Other tests and procedures may be used depending on your situation.
If your liver hemangioma is small and doesn't cause any signs or symptoms, you won't need treatment. In most cases a liver hemangioma will never grow and will never cause problems. Your doctor may schedule follow-up exams to check your liver hemangioma periodically for growth if the hemangioma is large.
Liver hemangioma treatment depends on the location and size of the hemangioma, whether you have more than one hemangioma, your overall health, and your preferences.
Treatment options may include:
- Surgery to remove the liver hemangioma. If the hemangioma can be easily separated from the liver, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the mass.
- Surgery to remove part of the liver, including the hemangioma. In some cases, surgeons may need to remove a portion of your liver along with the hemangioma.
- Procedures to stop blood flow to the hemangioma. Without a blood supply, the hemangioma may stop growing or shrink. Two ways to stop the blood flow are tying off the main artery (hepatic artery ligation) or injecting medication into the artery to block it (arterial embolization). Healthy liver tissue is unharmed because it can draw blood from other nearby vessels.
- Liver transplant surgery. In the unlikely event that you have a large hemangioma or multiple hemangiomas that can't be treated by other means, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your liver and replace it with a liver from a donor.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses powerful energy beams, such as X-rays, to damage the cells of the hemangioma. This treatment is rarely used because of the availability of safer and more effective treatments.
Preparing for your appointment
Most liver hemangiomas are discovered during a test or procedure for something else. If it's thought that you have a liver mass, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the digestive system (gastroenterologist) or one who specializes in the liver (hepatologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and to know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing. Most people with liver hemangiomas don't have any signs or symptoms.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along. It can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
For a liver hemangioma, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is the size of my liver hemangioma?
- Do I have one liver hemangioma or multiple hemangiomas?
- Is my liver hemangioma growing?
- What additional tests do I need?
- Do I need treatment for my liver hemangioma?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
- Should I plan for a follow-up visit?
- Are there medications that may worsen my hemangioma?
- Are my symptoms from the hemangioma?
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- Have you had pain, nausea, loss of appetite or feelings of fullness after eating little?
- Have you been pregnant?
- Have you used hormone replacement therapy?