Spinal hemangiomas are the most common primary tumor of the spine. These tumors occur most often in the mid back and lower back.
When people come to UPMC with a spinal hemangioma, our experts find a treatment path that will least disrupt their life and return them to normal functioning.
UPMC doctors have pioneered and refined minimally invasive treatments that offer new hope to people with complex neurosurgical disorders.
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Spinal hemangiomas are benign tumors most common in the mid back (thoracic) and lower back (lumbar).
Hemangiomas appear most in people between the ages of 30 and 50. They occur in about 10% of the world's population, and most people have no symptoms.
Symptomatic hemangiomas are less than 1% of all hemangiomas, and are more common in women. If not treated, symptomatic hemangiomas can cause serious neurological issues.
The cause of spinal hemangiomas is unknown.
Spinal hemangiomas are more common in women. Babies with a high amount of estrogen in their bodies after birth may be more likely to have these tumors.
People can have symptoms from spinal hemangiomas — or none at all. Our doctors use imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, to diagnose hemangiomas.
Most hemangiomas don't cause symptoms,
People who do have symptoms report:
You should see your doctor if the pain starts to cause a lot of discomfort and limits your activities of daily living.
If your doctor thinks you may have a hemangioma, they'll run imaging tests:
If this appears, your doctor will order an MRI to see if the tumor has:
An MRI can also show the extent of nerve damage in the spine and help plan surgical treatment.
Treatment for hemangiomas depends on the size of the tumor and where it is.
At UPMC, we may use a combination of:
Ethanol injections with fluoroscopic guidance may also help ease pain.
After embolization, we may also remove the small bones that make up a vertebra (laminectomy) or remove the vertebra (vertebrectomy).
It's rare for spinal hemangiomas to come back after treatment. But you should still see your doctor on a regular basis to check the status of the hemangioma.