What are the symptoms and treatment options for soft tissue hemangiomas?

Symptom Database

Soft tissue hemangiomas are a type of benign tumor that develops in the blood vessels of the body’s soft tissues. These tumors are typically non-cancerous and are commonly found in infants and young children. While most soft tissue hemangiomas do not require treatment and tend to resolve on their own, some cases may require medical intervention. In this article, we will explore the symptoms and treatment options for soft tissue hemangiomas, as well as delve into the causes, diagnosis, management, and ongoing research in this field.

Causes of Soft Tissue Hemangiomas

The exact cause of soft tissue hemangiomas is still unknown. However, researchers believe that these tumors develop due to an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the affected area. Some studies suggest that genetic factors may play a role in the development of hemangiomas, as they tend to run in families. Additionally, hormonal changes during pregnancy may contribute to the formation of these tumors.

Symptoms of Soft Tissue Hemangiomas

The symptoms of soft tissue hemangiomas can vary depending on their location and size. In many cases, these tumors are small and do not cause any noticeable symptoms. However, larger hemangiomas or those located in critical areas of the body may lead to the following symptoms:

  • Visible red or purple birthmark-like appearance
  • Swelling or lump in the affected area
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Ulceration or bleeding
  • Functional impairment (e.g., difficulty breathing if located near the airway)

Diagnosis of Soft Tissue Hemangiomas

To diagnose a soft tissue hemangioma, a healthcare professional will typically perform a physical examination and review the patient’s medical history. In some cases, additional tests may be necessary, such as:

  • Ultrasound: This imaging technique uses sound waves to create a visual image of the tumor and its blood vessels.
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): This test provides detailed images of the soft tissues, allowing healthcare professionals to assess the size and location of the hemangioma.
  • Biopsy: In rare cases, a small sample of the tumor may be removed for laboratory analysis to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Soft Tissue Hemangiomas

In most cases, soft tissue hemangiomas do not require treatment and tend to regress on their own over time. However, if the tumor is causing significant symptoms or functional impairment, or if it poses a risk to the patient’s health, treatment options may be considered. The choice of treatment depends on various factors, including the size, location, and severity of the hemangioma.

Observation and Monitoring

For small, asymptomatic hemangiomas, healthcare professionals may recommend a “wait and watch” approach. Regular monitoring is essential to ensure that the tumor does not grow or cause any complications. In many cases, these hemangiomas will resolve without any intervention.


Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, have shown promising results in the treatment of soft tissue hemangiomas. These medications work by reducing the blood flow to the tumor, thereby causing it to shrink. Beta-blockers are typically administered orally or topically, depending on the location and size of the hemangioma.

Hemangioma Surgery

In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove or reduce the size of the hemangioma. Surgery is often considered when the tumor is large, causing significant functional impairment, or if it poses a risk to the patient’s health. The surgical approach may vary depending on the location and extent of the hemangioma, and it is best performed by a specialized surgeon experienced in managing these tumors.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is another treatment option for soft tissue hemangiomas. This non-invasive procedure uses focused laser beams to target and destroy the blood vessels within the tumor. Laser therapy is particularly effective for smaller hemangiomas located on the skin’s surface.

Hemangioma Management and Specialist Care

After the initial diagnosis and treatment, ongoing management and follow-up care are crucial for patients with soft tissue hemangiomas. Regular check-ups with a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist or pediatrician, will help monitor the tumor’s progress and ensure that any necessary interventions are implemented promptly.

In cases where the hemangioma causes functional impairment or cosmetic concerns, specialized care from a multidisciplinary team may be required. This team may include dermatologists, plastic surgeons, otolaryngologists, and other healthcare professionals with expertise in managing soft tissue hemangiomas.

Current Research on Soft Tissue Hemangiomas

Researchers and medical professionals continue to explore new treatment options and gain a better understanding of soft tissue hemangiomas. Ongoing research focuses on areas such as:

  • Developing targeted therapies to inhibit the growth of blood vessels within the tumor
  • Investigating the role of genetic factors in the development of hemangiomas
  • Exploring the use of advanced imaging techniques for accurate diagnosis and monitoring
  • Studying the long-term outcomes and potential complications associated with different treatment approaches

While soft tissue hemangiomas can be concerning for patients and their families, it is important to remember that most cases do not require treatment and tend to resolve on their own. However, if you notice any unusual symptoms or have concerns about a potential hemangioma, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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