An infantile hemangioma (hee-man-jee-OH-muh) is a type of birthmark
that happens when a tangled group of blood vessels grows in or under a baby's skin.
Infantile hemangiomas become visible in the first few days to weeks after a baby
is born. Hemangiomas that
are visible at birth are called congenital
hemangiomas. They grow differently and are treated differently. Infantile
hemangiomas are much more common than congenital hemangiomas.
The two main types of infantile hemangiomas are:
Superficial hemangiomas, or cutaneous ("in-the-skin") hemangiomas,
grow on the skin surface. They're also called strawberry hemangiomas or strawberry
marks because of their bumpy red appearance.
Deep hemangiomas grow under the skin, making it bulge, often
with a blue or purple tint. Deep hemangiomas are also called subcutaneous ("under
the skin") hemangiomas.
Hemangiomas also may develop in organs inside the body, such as the kidneys, lungs,
liver, or brain, where they can't be seen.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of an Infantile Hemangioma?
Most infantile hemangiomas grow larger for several months, then shrink slowly.
They usually grow the fastest within the first 3 months. Shrinking may start in the
later part of the first year and continue until a child is age 7 or older. Infantile
hemangiomas often shrink (or involute) to the point that they're
no longer noticeable.
Because hemangiomas grow and change, they're called tumors, but they're not a kind
of cancer. Hemangiomas do not spread to other places in the body or to other people.
A child can have more than one hemangioma.
What Problems Can Happen?
A hemangioma may cause problems by:
blocking vision or eye movements
reducing air flow through the nose and mouth
breaking down the skin surface (ulceration)
having enough blood flowing through it to put a strain on the baby's heart
affecting the child's appearance
Also, a large hemangioma on the face can be associated with vascular anomalies
in the brain.
Infantile hemangiomas often grow on the head or neck, where they can't easily be
concealed by clothing. Sometimes, the appearance of a hemangioma can make a child
the target of teasing or bullying.
What Causes an Infantile Hemangioma?
The cause of infantile hemangiomas is unknown.
Who Gets Infantile Hemangiomas?
Hemangiomas are more common in babies born prematurely
(before their due date), at a low birth weight, or as part of a multiple birth (twins,
Hemangiomas may run in families, but no genetic cause has been found.
How Are Infantile Hemangiomas Diagnosed?
An infantile hemangioma of the skin is usually recognized by how it looks and when
it appears. Tests such as MRI
or ultrasound scans can be done to see how far the hemangioma goes under the skin
and whether it affects any internal organs.
How Are Infantile Hemangiomas Treated?
Most infantile hemangiomas are not treated because they usually go away on their
own. The skin usually looks better if a hemangioma shrinks naturally rather than being
When a hemangioma is causing a serious problem — such as bleeding or interfering
with vision — treatment may be the best option.
These treatments might be used alone or in combination:
injected into the hemangioma
taken by mouth or circulated through a vein (IV)
surgery to completely remove the hemangioma
tying the vessel shut in a surgical procedure (ligation)
the vessels from the inside using a long, thin tube called a catheter that reaches
the hemangioma through blood vessels
surface laser for skin color changes
If treatment is needed, your child's doctors will discuss the options available
and which is most likely to work well with minimum scarring or other side effects.
When an infantile hemangioma goes away on its own, it may leave behind a flap of
stretched skin. Depending on the look and location of the loose skin, it might be
removed with surgery.