Infantile hemangiomas are tumors containing small collections of abnormal blood capillaries that have been found to resemble placental tissue. They are vascular birthmarks that usually appears within the first few weeks of birth, some may even be seen as a small red mark or bruise at birth. They then grow intermittently, and sometimes quite rapidly, throughout the first 10 -12 months of life. After a year of age, there is usually no more growth and the hemangioma starts its involutional phase. In this phase, the hemangioma can shrink, and lighten in color or it may not appear to do anything. Depending on how large the hemangioma has grown, this shrinking is frequently not enough to make the lesion “go away”. In fact, a large percentage of hemangiomas will require some form of intervention to correct the deformity that has been caused by the growth of the hemangioma or to correct scarring caused by ulceration. For this reason, there are several treatment options that are available to us to help control the growth as much as possible.
The second type of hemangioma is a congenital hemangioma. These are hemangiomas that are fully formed at birth. They usually don’t grow anymore but they may or may not involute (shrink). There are two types of congenital hemangioma, the RICH or rapidly involuting congenital hemangioma and the NICH, non-involuting congenital hemangioma. Like each of their names implies, one tends to go away rapidly and the other doesn’t really change at all.
Infantile hemangiomas can be classified by the areas they involve. Superficial hemangiomas involve skin only. Deep hemangiomas involve the layers of tissue below the skin and can vary in color from deep purple/blue to skin tones if they are really deep. Compound hemangiomas involve both the skin and deeper tissues.