The word “hemangioma” is often used incorrectly when discussing vascular birthmarks. For many years, other types of birthmarks such as venous malformations or arteriovenous malformations were referred to as “hemangiomas.” However, hemangiomas are not present in adults and should be referred to as Infantile Hemangiomas.
- Approximately 30% of all hemangiomas are visible at birth. The remaining 70% become visible within one to four weeks after birth.
- Hemangiomas occur five times more often in females than in males and occur predominantly in Caucasians. Low birthweight infants (less than 2.2 pounds) have a 26% chance of developing a hemangioma.
- The cause of hemangiomas has not been determined, and neither parent should bear guilt over the occurrence or appearance of one of these birthmarks.
- Approximately 83% occur on the head and neck area. The remaining 17% appear throughout the the rest of the body, both externally and internally. In the early stages some appear either as bluish or reddish spots or flat patches. Rarely is a hemangioma fully grown at birth.
- Hemangiomas that are flat and appear reddish in color are called “superficial” and those that are deep beneath the skin and appear bluish in color are called “deep” hemangiomas. When a hemangioma is both deep and superficial it is called a “compound” hemangioma. The correct diagnosis is critical for proper treatment.
- Hemangiomas can grow for up to 18 months and then begin a long slow regression known as involution. This involution can last from 3- 10 years. While all hemangiomas eventually ‘involute” the result is not always cosmetically acceptable. Early intervention has been shown to reduce the need for corrective surgery after “involution” has occurred; or to, at least, minimize extensive corrective surgeries in the future. Psycho-social scarring which occurs when a child has been forced to live with a facial deformity until “involution” has been completed can be avoided by early, aggressive intervention.
- Other type of hemangiomas are Non-Involuting Congenital Hemangiomas (NICH) and Rapidly Involution Congenital Hemangiomas (RICH).
The important thing to remember is that accurate diagnosis and early intervention is key. Hemangiomas, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small and hardly noticeable, while others are large and disfiguring.