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What is Hemangioblastoma?

Hemangioblastoma is a rare, typically benign tumor that arises from blood vessel cells in the brain or spinal cord. It can cause a range of neurological symptoms depending on its location. Through vivid imagery, we'll explore its characteristics, treatment options, and impacts on health. Ready to uncover the visual journey of understanding Hemangioblastoma? Join us as we unravel this medical enigma.
Emma Lloyd
Emma Lloyd

A hemangioblastoma is a benign growth of the central nervous system. These tumors can develop in both the brain and the spinal cord, most often arising in the membrane layer known as the meninges. The most common treatment for a hemangioblastoma is to remove the tumor via surgery. Because these tumors are benign, removal is almost always curative. The exception is in cases where the tumor has an underlying cause such as a genetic defect that predisposes the individual to developing this type of tumor.

Hemangioblastoma tumors are rare, comprising approximately 1 percent to 2.5 percent of tumors that arise in the intracranial region. Most develop in the rear portion of the cranium, with the second most common location for the tumor to develop being the spinal cord. It is rare for the tumor to arise in other locations, but hemangioblastomas occasionally can develop in the optic nerve or peripheral nerves.

Hemangioblastoma can occasionally develop in the optic nerve.
Hemangioblastoma can occasionally develop in the optic nerve.

Most cases of hemangioblastoma are spontaneously developing single tumors, but people with a heredity disease called von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease have a greatly increased risk of this type of tumor. Many people with VHL disease have recurring hemangioblastomas as well as tumors of the kidneys and adrenals. Because these tumors are likely to recur in people with VHL disease, treatment of the tumor is not always successful.

Imaging studies may be helpful in diagnosing hemangioblastomas.
Imaging studies may be helpful in diagnosing hemangioblastomas.

Because most tumors do not recur and typically are removed with relative ease, surgery is the standard treatment for a hemangioblastoma. This treatment is avoided only in cases where the patient’s health is too poor to undergo surgery or in other situations where the risks outweigh the benefits. In some cases, for example, people with VHL do not undergo surgery unless strictly necessary, because of the likelihood of tumor recurrence and an increased risk of complications.

A hemangioblastoma may develop on either the spinal cord or brain.
A hemangioblastoma may develop on either the spinal cord or brain.

The goal of surgery is always a complete removal of the tumor and the preservation of surrounding brain or neural tissues. In most cases, this is achievable because of the distinctive color of the tumor and the clear demarcation between the tumor and the spinal cord or brain. Hemangioblastomas are a vascular type of tumor, which means they are fed by blood vessels that are part of the tumor itself. Because of this, intraoperative bleeding and severe blood loss is one of the main risks of this surgery. To reduce the risk of serious bleeding, the surgeon must pay careful attention when removing the tumor and coagulating the blood vessels that feed it.

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    • Hemangioblastoma can occasionally develop in the optic nerve.
      By: kocakayaali
      Hemangioblastoma can occasionally develop in the optic nerve.
    • Imaging studies may be helpful in diagnosing hemangioblastomas.
      By: Remains
      Imaging studies may be helpful in diagnosing hemangioblastomas.
    • A hemangioblastoma may develop on either the spinal cord or brain.
      By: nerthuz
      A hemangioblastoma may develop on either the spinal cord or brain.
    • Surgery is the standard treatment for a hemangioblastoma.
      By: Kot63
      Surgery is the standard treatment for a hemangioblastoma.
    • Von Hippel-Lindau disease is a hereditary condition that causes hemangioblastomas.
      By: Pavel Losevsky
      Von Hippel-Lindau disease is a hereditary condition that causes hemangioblastomas.