Spinal Hemangioma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment


Spinal hemangioma, also called vertebral hemangioma, is a benign tumor that develops from blood vessels in the bones of the spine, or vertebrae. In the human body, there are all in all 33 bones in the spine, which are also known as vertebrae. For spinel hemangiomas, most of them are located in the upper to middle back and the lower back, which is often called the thoracic spine and the lumbar spine. Usually, the spinal hemangioma looks like red, raised birthmark. Many people with the condition usually have no symptoms at all and do not need to receive any treatment. But if the spinal hemangioma starts to cause pain and other neurological symptoms, treatments will be required because symptomatic spinal hemangioma means the tumor affects the spinal cord or the nerves. Typically, if the spinal hemangioma shows symptoms, it causes pain in the site of the tumor.

Spinal hemangiomas are pretty common and about 10% of people have this condition. But only about 5% of hemangiomas show symptoms. That is to say, many people may have this condition without knowing it their whole life. In fact, the tumor is found in as many as 10% to 12% autopsies.

Also, a spinal hemangioma can affect both genders. But for females, the condition is more likely to develop symptoms and require medical treatment. Older people who are between the age of 40 to 60 are at higher risk of getting spinal hemangioma.


At present, the specific cause of spinal hemangioma remains unknown. However, with previous researches, studies have shown that the disease may be associated with a genetic cause. Moreover, experts have found that a high amount of estrogen after birth may increase the risk of developing the condition too.


For most people with spinal hemangiomas, they tend to have no symptoms all. But when the tumor affects the nerves and spinal cord, signs and symptoms may arise, which may include:

  • Back pain
  • Numbness and weakness in the arms and legs
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Weakened vertebrae
  • Compression fractures

On the whole, according to different size and location of the tumor, people may show different symptoms.


To find out if a person has spinal hemangiomas, imaging tests should be done.

  • MR (magnetic resonance) imaging and/or CT (computed tomography, also known as a CAT scan). MR (magnetic resonance) imaging test can produce detailed images of the organs and tissues like the brain and spinal cord. While CT scan can produce detailed images of bones and soft tissues. With the imaging tests results, the doctor can better visualize the situation and make a diagnosis.
  • Angiogram. If the imaging tests confirm that the individual is with spinal hemangiomas, the doctor might order an angiogram, a specialized radiographic study, to check the blood supply to the tumor. So, in the surgical procedure, the doctor can slow down or eliminate the blood flow to the tumor and make sure that the surgery can be done safely.

As a matter of fact, many people with spinal hemangiomas find out that they are with the condition by accident because many people with the disease experience no symptoms at all.


For people with asymptomatic spinal hemangiomas, they usually do not need any treatment. But if the situation is so severe that the patient with the condition undertakes substantial pain, surgery may be recommended by the doctor. However, before taking the surgical approach, the doctor will take full consideration of a patient’s health condition, the size, location and blood supply of the tumor first and then decide to perform the surgery or not.

Available treatment options may include the following:


This is a minimally invasive surgical operation that cuts off the blood flow to the hemangioma.

Ethanol Injections

Ethanol injections aim at helping the blood clotting within the hemangioma so as to prevent further bleeding.

Radiation Therapy

By using high-energy X-rays, this therapy destroys the tumor cells, reduce the size of the hemangioma and prevent the tumor from further advancing.

All in all, depending on the specific situations, the doctor will tailor specific treatment procedures for every patient with a spinal hemangioma.

Keywords: spinal hemangioma; vertebral hemangioma.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.