There are several methods of treatment for hemangioma, an abnormal buildup of blood vessels on the skin or internal organs. The most commonly used are observation, steroid treatments, laser treatments and surgery. Many times, a combination of these treatments is used. Each treatment has different goals and can vary in effectiveness.
Doctors will often treat hemangioma by observing the lesion caused by the condition for a specific time period. It is uncertain how large the lesion will become or whether it will disappear on its own, so careful observation by a professional allows time to see what will happen. In the case of infant hemangioma, this is often how treatment begins.
Oral steroids have also been used as an effective treatment for hemangioma. This type of treatment for hemangioma is used to slow the growth of the lesion and not to remove it altogether. One drawback of this method is that it typically is effective only during the hemangioma growth phase. This phase is known as proliferation. The other phase of the hemangioma life cycle is known as involution, and during this phase, the hemangioma shrinks. Steroids are not effective during this time and other methods of treatment should be used.
Another option for hemangioma treatment is laser therapy. Laser treatments can be used to remove the hemangioma completely or to remove broken blood vessels that are caused by the involution of the lesion. In many cases, laser treatments are also used to slow the growth of the hemangioma and provide a basis for its future removal. One example of laser treatment is the use of a pulsed dye laser, which is used to retard proliferation and minimize redness. Often, many treatments are required, but laser treatments still are one of the least traumatic for patients.
Surgery can also be used as an effective treatment for hemangioma. Like laser treatment, surgical treatment is often used with the goal of eliminating the lesion entirely, setting the stage for future removal or treating broken blood vessels caused during the shrinkage phase. One benefit of surgical treatment is that the hemangioma will respond to surgery during both the proliferation and involution phases, so treatment can be performed during any time period.
Sometimes a combination of these treatments is performed. For instance, lasers can be used first in preparation for surgical removal. Similarly, oral steroids can be used to slow the growth of the hemangioma prior to surgical removal or laser treatment.