What Are Hemangiomas of the Spine?


Quick Answer

Hemangiomas of the spine are benign tumors that typically develop on either the lower or mid-back, explains University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. About 10 percent of the population have spinal hemangiomas, but most people with the condition never experience symptoms.

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Fewer than 1 percent of spinal hemangiomas produce symptoms, but those that do can lead to severe neurological problems if not properly treated, notes UPMC. Symptoms can include compression of the spinal cord, back pain or nerve pain. It is more common for the tumors to produce symptoms in women than in men. Most hemangiomas that cause pain are large enough to affect the entire vertebra, according to Cedars-Sinai. By comparison, the majority of hemangiomas are located on only one bone of the spine.

Very large hemangiomas can cause spinal bones to collapse, states Cedars-Sinai. In cases where the spinal collapse is especially severe, it is possible for patients to lose control of their bladders, bowels or legs.

Imaging studies, including X-rays, CT scans or MRI scans, can confirm the presence of a hemangioma, explains UPMC. Options for treating symptomatic hemangiomas include embolization, radiation therapy and surgical removal. Embolization is the process of cutting off the flow of blood to the tumor. Radiation therapy can help reduce pain caused by the tumor.

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