Infantile hemangiomas are benign growths of blood vessels. The lesions may not be present at birth but usually develop within the first three months of life. They occur most commonly in the head and neck region, but can be present anywhere on the body. Hemangiomas may occur in infants of all races; they occur more frequently in females than males. Premature birth, low-birth weight, and mothers with multiple prior pregnancies are some of the factors that have been associated with the formation of infantile hemangiomas.
Signs and Symptoms
Infantile hemangiomas are characterized by their clinical features and course. These birthmarks first appear as scratch-like or bruise-like marks or bumps and gradually grow in size over the first year of life. They have been referred to as “strawberries” because the bumps on the skin are often bright red.
Infantile hemangiomas follow a specific pattern of growth and involution (shrinking and lightening in color). The emerging stage usually occurs from birth to three months of age, followed by an early and late growth stage, typically from six to ten months. During the growth phases, the lesions initially expand rapidly and then stabilize. Infantile hemangiomas usually reach their maximum size by five or six months of age. After the first year of life, infantile hemangiomas slowly shrink and lighten in color, a process called involution. The involution stage may be most rapid between infancy and four years of age, but can also progress more gradually over the subsequent five to 10 years of the child’s life.
Most infantile hemangiomas can be diagnosed by a physical exam. Other diagnostic tools -- such as blood tests, biopsy, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging and angiogram --may be necessary in certain circumstances. Our vascular anomalies team will determine the necessary tests needed for a comprehensive evaluation.
Treatment is usually not required because infantile hemangiomas become smaller on their own. Medical or surgical intervention may be necessary if the hemangioma causes complications such as bleeding, interference with breathing, feeding or vision, or other life threatening events.