What is a haemangioma?
Haemangiomas are non-cancerous growths which are filled with a large number of abnormal blood vessels. They may be evident at birth, or develop soon after, and they often grow rapidly during the first year of life. Haemangiomas can be found on the surface of the skin or deep in the tissue.
The size and appearance of haemangiomas varies – some appear red and raised, some are white or blueish soft masses under the skin, and others are a combination of both. After a period of rapid growth, some haemangiomas partly or completely disappear over several years, although they may leave the skin with a different appearance – similar to that of a scar.
What is the treatment?
As haemangiomas tend to go away themselves, the treatment methods are conservative. They focus on control of rapid growth and early regression with best functional and cosmetic appearance. Often a combination of treatments will get the best result for your child.
Custom-made compression garments can prevent soft-tissue expansion of some vascular lesions in the early growth phase. This can also help to block the veins, shrink the vascular anomaly and reduce swelling and aching in the limbs.
Propranolol is a safe and usually effective treatment, particularly at a young age. Many families find using a medication syringe, followed by a favourite drink or food is a good way to get children to take their medicine. More information on propranolol can be found on the Propranolol Fact Sheet.
Surgical management is sometimes considered when the haemangioma has matured. This is based on surgical and cosmetic need, and the area that the haemangioma is impacting.
Some cosmetic companies offer individual skin colour matching cover for some vascular anomalies, including haemangiomas. These can be applied like make-up and can last for several days.
Care at home
When at home, there are a few extra measures to can take to assist your child with their haemangiomas:
- Teach your child to be careful with their haemangioma as some can ulcerate if they’re knocked or bumped. If bleeding ever occurs, apply a firm (but not tight) compression to the bleeding area with some clean gauze or cloth and seek up medical support
- Assist your child to complete their prescribed treatment regime
- Encourage your child to participate in activities where possible, to encourage growth and development
- If you become concerned about the haemangioma at any stage, contact your relevant care coordinator
Haemangiomas can occur on the face or neck. Although these marks may have no effect on physical function, they can alter cosmetic appearance which can have an impact on your child psychologically. These psychological impacts may not occur until your child has reached school age but it is a good thing to always be on the lookout for. We are here to support you and your child in the best way possible, so please talk to us about your concerns, and ask any questions you may have.
Vascular Anomalies Clinic (3b)
Level 3, Queensland Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t: 07 3068 2830 (business hours)
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
In an emergency, always call 000.
If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.