How Is Angiomyolipoma of the Kidney Diagnosed and Treated?

A doctor can diagnose an angiomyolipoma of the kidney with a CT scan, according to the Urology Care Foundation. A doctor may choose to delay treatment and monitor this benign tumor with regular imaging studies; however, if the tumor is larger than 1.57 inches, bleeds or causes other symptoms, a surgeon may perform an embolization or remove it entirely.

The fatty tissue within angiomyolipomas allows doctors to diagnose them using CT, ultrasound or MRI imaging, states the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance. Sometimes the angiomyolipoma does not contain fat, which complicates the diagnosis. Also, 90 percent of people with tumors that are larger than or equal to 1.57 inches have other symptoms caused by the angiomyolipoma.

Angiomyolipomas can cause life-threatening bleeding in 20 percent of cases, explains the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance. This bleeding occurs because of the abnormal blood vessels within the tumor that cause weak spots within their walls. If these weak spots, called aneurysms, burst, bleeding results.

For patients with tuberous sclerosis complex, doctors may avoid surgical treatments because of the risk of impaired kidney function and the tendency of these patients to develop multiple angiomyolipomas, notes the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance. In these cases, a doctor may prescribe everolimus to shrink existing tumors and prevent the formation of new ones.

Angiomyolipomas are a combination of blood vessels, muscle cells and fatty tissue, according to the New York Urology Specialists. They are typically present in the kidneys of women who have not entered menopause. Unless the patient has tuberous sclerosis complex, a single tumor is most common.