Does your child have a hemangioma that’s causing you concern? These benign tumors form from abnormal blood vessel cells and are the most common tumors in babies, affecting around 5% of US infants.
Board-certified surgeon Christopher Brooks, MD, and the team at Brooks Plastic Surgery in Hollywood, Florida, specialize in assessing hemangiomas in children to recommend the most effective treatments.
If you’re worried about your child’s hemangioma, take a moment to learn more about these benign tumors and the treatment therapies that can help.
What are hemangiomas?
A hemangioma is a type of birthmark that forms when blood vessels and other cells don’t grow normally. These benign tumors usually appear in the first weeks after a baby is born, and there is no known cause.
At first, a hemangioma might look like a small bump or patch on the skin. They usually grow quickly and may continue to grow until around 12 months of age.
The tumors typically develop on the head or neck, though they can appear anywhere on your baby’s body, and the appearance of hemangiomas depends on the layer of skin in which it forms. In rare cases, children may have many hemangiomas, which can be a sign of additional health concerns.
Hemangiomas close to the surface of the skin are usually raised and appear bright red, though deeper growths may be colorless or appear purple or blue. They also vary in size, with some staying very small while others can grow to be as big as softball or larger.
The good news is that after your baby reaches about one year of age, these growths generally stabilize, then begin to shrink and fade away. In fact, in the majority of children, hemangiomas are gone by 5 years of age.
When do hemangiomas require treatment?
For many children, hemangiomas resolve on their own without the need for medical intervention. Your provider examines your baby and reviews their clinical history, though in some cases, additional imaging or a biopsy may be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Your doctor then lets you know if the best option is watchful waiting for the tumor to go away on its own or if treatment is recommended. Providers typically recommend medical intervention when the tumor:
- May leave a scar or extra skin in a visible place
- Significantly affects facial or physical features
- Appears infected or inflamed
- Is in a location that interferes with normal functions (e.g., obstructs vision, breathing, or ability to eat)
Treatment is also recommended when the hemangioma is associated with an underlying health condition.
What are the most effective ways to treat hemangiomas?
The most effective hemangioma treatment depends on the unique situation of each child. To learn what’s right for your baby, it’s best to meet with an expert, like Dr. Brooks, for personalized hemangioma treatment recommendations.
In the meantime, here’s a look at the most effective therapies providers use to manage hemangiomas that require intervention:
The first line of treatment is usually medications to slow the development of the tumors. Some medications can also help shrink the tumors. Some common drug therapies include:
- Propranolol: An oral beta-blocker medication that constricts the growth of blood vessels and has a good track record in managing hemangiomas
- Topical beta blocker: A topical application used in small hemangiomas
- Steroid therapy: Oral or injectable steroid medication to slow the growth of the tumor
In some cases with complex tumors, your provider may recommend using a combination of medications to slow the progression of the tumor(s).
Laser therapy works by sending light energy through your child’s skin into the tumor, where it’s absorbed by the cells in the growth. This energy destroys the blood vessel cells but leaves the surrounding skin tissue unharmed.
The decision to use this therapy depends on the size, location, and nature of the tumor, but generally, laser treatments work best on superficial hemangiomas or in combination with other therapies on deeper tumors.
In some cases, surgical intervention is the most effective treatment for hemangiomas in children. This may be recommended if the hemangioma doesn’t resolve on its own and is large or in a prominent location.
Your provider may also recommend surgery if there are skin changes associated with the growth that affect the child’s appearance, if the hemangioma becomes ulcerated, or when the growth affects the function of your child’s body.
As a pediatric plastic surgeon and craniofacial surgical specialist, your child is in the best hands possible for removing the tumor while minimizing scarring and correcting any skin changes or disruptions of your child’s features the hemangioma may have caused.
To learn which approach will be most effective in treating your child’s hemangioma, schedule a consultation at Brooks Plastic Surgery in Hollywood, Florida today.