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What Is a Spinal Hemangioma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 April 2014
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A spinal hemangioma is a benign vascular tumor of the spine. These growths classically appear in the thoracic and lumbar spine, located in the mid to lower back. While the tumor is not dangerous, it can cause pain and discomfort, and treatment may be recommended for these reasons. Spinal surgeons are usually involved in the evaluation and treatment of patients with spinal hemangiomas and patients can access especially good treatment at spinal centers, facilities specializing solely in spinal care.

The causes of spinal hemangiomas are not well understood. Some people appear to have a genetic predisposition, while other people do not, and the tumors can take a variety of forms. Patients can experience symptoms like pain, numbness, and tingling, both at the tumor site and in another areas of the body if the tumor puts pressure on the spinal nerves. To diagnose a spinal hemangioma, a doctor will need to order a medical imaging study of the spine.

Tests like MRIs are commonly used to evaluate patients with suspected spinal problems, and a contrast agent may be used to highlight the spinal structures. For this test, patients lie on a table after being injected with the contrast agent and are wheeled into an MRI machine for imaging. A radiologist can examine the images and check for abnormalities. If any are found, spine specialists can look at the films to collect more information for use in diagnosis and the development of a treatment plan.

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Often, the recommendation for a spinal hemangioma is no treatment. If the patient is not experiencing severe symptoms and the tumor appears stable, followups will be recommended periodically to see if it is growing and to check for new symptoms, but otherwise the tumor will be left alone. For patients in pain and in cases where there are concerns about pinching the spinal nerves, treatment may be recommended to address the tumor before it has an opportunity to cause more problems for the patient.

One option is embolization, where the blood supply to the tumor is cut off, arresting the growth and forcing it to shrink over time. A spinal hemangioma can also be removed surgically or treated with radiation therapy. Once the growth is resolved, the patient should experience a significant improvement. If symptoms continue to linger, further medical evaluation is needed to check for signs of permanent damage to the spine. Treatment options for chronic pain caused by a spinal hemangioma can include electrical stimulation of the nerves, as well as pain medications.

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Discuss this Article

peekh
Post 5

Are there alternative treatments for people with spinal hemangiomas? If so, what are they? I have a similar situation as anon164370. Much of the literature regarding multiple spinal hemangiomas recommends a non-surgical approach. I also found a website for AVM (arteriovenous malformation) which can be of the brain or spine. It is surprising to learn that this disease is more common or widespread than I had imagined. It also appears to be genetic in many cases.

In addition to the hemangioma, I have a meningioma in the left frontal lobe of my brain. I have not had surgery. I have numbness of arms/legs and spasms in my back plus extreme pain and bad migraines. Seems to be a common problem with all.

anon316071
Post 4

I also have multiple spinal hemangiomas (T5 and T11), plus a meningioma in the frontal lobe of my brain. I am not able to work due to dizzy spells, weakness on left side of body, extreme pain, numbness in hands/feet, pain in right arm/shoulder, pain in left hip/leg, nerve spasms in lower back and my neurologist tells me to just take tylenol, advil and/or aleve for pain.

My bowels don't work very well either, meaning I can't evacuate food sometimes for up to five days, and I'm still losing weight due to the location of the tumors. I can drink fluids without any problem.

I am seeking some relief or improvement. I went to a teaching hospital for a consult, but got no help. Does anyone have recommendations? What have people with this disease tried as alternative to surgery?

I'm not a fan of strong pain killers or shots. I think our society is flooded with addicts and I'm not thrilled about becoming dependent on pain meds.

anon298603
Post 2

@anon164370: Of course you should! It is always good to get a second opinion and sometimes a third. You are the only one who knows what you are going through, so you have to find a doctor that you trust and who listens to you. Good luck!

anon164370
Post 1

I have been diagnosed with multiple spinal hemangiomas, which are predominately at T8-T9 and in other areas of the spine. I have been told not to worry about them but in the past I have had several spinal surgeries at L4/5 area which has left me with chronic pain and damage to the nerve to the bowel.

I also experience the most awful aching pain across mid to upper area of my back plus weakness in my legs. Should I insist on a second opinion? Any comments would be much appreciated. Many thanks.

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