A hemangioma spine also known as vertebral hemangioma is a benign tumor which affects the body of the vertebra. The tumor predominantly occurs in the lower thoracic and the upper lumbar spine. There are three pathohistological types of vertebral hemangioma, capillary hemangioma, cavernous hemangioma and mixed hemangioma. Vertebral hemangioma is basically solitary tumor and it is estimated that it affects 10% of population. In majority of cases the tumor is asymptomatic. Still, if left untreated and if it grows up to certain size vertebral hemangioma may lead to serious neurological deficits.
Causes of Hemangioma Spine
Until now scientists have not found the exact cause of vertebral hemangioma. It is believed that the tumor occurs in genetically predisposed people. Many studies have tried to identify the cause of hemangioma. Some of the results point to the connection between localized tissue hypoxia and the occurrence of hemangiomas. On the other hand, in other studies scientists have found connection between the tumor and increased amount of circulating estrogen.
Symptoms of Hemangioma Spine
The symptoms of a hemangioma spine basically depend on the tumor's location and its size. Even though the tumor grows inside the vertebral body it may also affect the surrounding muscles. If vertebral hemangioma is small in size it does not have to cause any symptoms at all. In this case it can be found accidentally during MRI of the spine or some other imaging techniques performed in other purposes.
However, in symptomatic patients excessive growth of the tumor can cause small spinal fractures. Protrusion and expansion of the tumor into the spinal cord leads to compression of the nerves and consequent symptoms such as numbness and malfunctioning of the organ innervated by the compressed nerve. This particularly affects patients whose vertebral bodies are entirely occupied by the tumor.
Treatment for Hemangioma Spine
There are several treatment modalities for a hemangioma spine. In case of small tumors patients are only monitored and the treatment is not necessary if the disease is asymptomatic. If vertebral hemangioma is larger in size and causes certain symptoms and signs the doctor chooses between surgical resection and radiation therapy. The severity of symptoms as well as precise location of the tumor determines which treatment modality is most suitable for a patient. Prior the surgery the surgeon must takes into account the generous blood supply of the tumor and the adjoining areas and carefully plan the surgical resection. There are certain risks associated with the surgery. This is why this treatment modality is left as last resort for vertebral hemangioma. And finally, in some patients the tumor shrinks once it has been injected with absolute ethanol.