Spinal Hemangioma

A spinal hemangioma is a benign (noncancerous) tumor that grows on your backbone. You probably won’t notice you have one, as they rarely cause symptoms. If you do notice back pain or numbness in your arms and legs, a healthcare provider can determine if treatment is necessary.


What is a spinal hemangioma?

A spinal hemangioma is a noncancerous (benign) tumor on your backbone. This growth on your spine is made up of blood vessels. Most people don’t have symptoms. A healthcare provider usually finds it accidentally while performing an imaging test for another reason.

How serious is a spinal hemangioma?

A spinal hemangioma is usually not serious, but some are. Complications are painful but treatable and may include bone breaks or nerve compression.

How common is a spinal hemangioma?

Spinal hemangiomas affect an estimated 10% of the global population. They’re the most common noncancerous bone tumor of the spine.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of a spinal hemangioma?

You most likely won’t notice you have a spinal hemangioma. Less than 5% of spinal hemangiomas cause symptoms, which may include:

  • Back pain.
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in your arms and/or legs.
  • A lump on your spine.

What are the neurological symptoms of a spinal hemangioma?

Neurological symptoms refer to symptoms that affect your nervous system. Your nervous system includes your brain, spinal cord and nerves. A spinal hemangioma sits on your spine. Rarely, it can affect the way your nerves send messages to and from your brain through your spinal cord. This can cause symptoms like pain, weakness, numbness or a “pins and needles” feeling in your back, arms and legs.

How fast do spinal hemangiomas grow?

Most spinal hemangiomas grow slowly or stop growing (but don’t shrink) and you might not even notice it. Other hemangiomas have an “aggressive” growth pattern. This happens when the tumor grows larger, beyond the surface of your bone and reaches your soft tissues. Aggressive hemangiomas require treatment.

Can a hemangioma in the spine rupture?

Yes, but it’s rare. A rupture happens when the spinal hemangioma breaks open or bursts. This can cause heavy bleeding (hemorrhage) and requires immediate medical attention.

What causes a spinal hemangioma?

An overgrowth of blood vessels on your spine causes a spinal hemangioma. The reason why this happens is unknown.

What are the risk factors for a spinal hemangioma?

A spinal hemangioma can affect anyone at any age. It’s most common after age 50. Women and people assigned female at birth are more likely to develop this tumor versus men and people assigned male at birth.


What are the complications of a spinal hemangioma?

Although it happens rarely, a spinal hemangioma can cause the following painful complications:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is a spinal hemangioma diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a spinal hemangioma that doesn’t cause symptoms usually happens by accident. A healthcare provider may order an imaging test, like a CT scan or MRI, for an unrelated reason and notice the growth on your spine while reviewing the images.

In addition to reviewing an imaging test, a healthcare provider will complete a physical exam and ask questions to learn more about your symptoms and medical history.

What does a spinal hemangioma look like on an MRI?

A healthcare provider will take an imaging test of your spine to see if you have a tumor. A spinal hemangioma will have the following features:

  • Round or oblong shape on a spinal vertebra.
  • Pattern made of lines.
  • Pattern made of polka dots.


Management and Treatment

How is a spinal hemangioma treated?

Most healthcare providers won’t recommend treatment for a spinal hemangioma if you don’t have symptoms.

Treatment for spinal hemangiomas that cause symptoms may include:

  • Endovascular embolization: Cutting off blood flow to the tumor by filling or closing blood vessels.
  • Vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty: Injecting surgical cement into an area of your bone to repair or prevent damage.
  • Transpedicular ethanol injection: Injecting an alcohol solution into the hemangioma to remove it.
  • Radiation therapy: Shrinking the hemangioma using high-powered X-rays.
  • Vertebrectomy: Surgery to remove the affected bone where the hemangioma sits.

Are there side effects of the treatment?

The side effects of your treatment vary based on what procedure your healthcare provider recommends. They may include:

  • Severe bleeding.
  • Blood clots.
  • Pain.
  • Artery damage.
  • Infection.
  • Nerve damage.


Can a spinal hemangioma be prevented?

There’s no known way to prevent a spinal hemangioma because the cause isn’t well understood. Luckily, the majority of cases don’t cause symptoms and don’t need treatment.

Outlook / Prognosis

What’s the outlook for a spinal hemangioma?

Your outlook is positive with a spinal hemangioma. This tumor usually isn’t a threat to your health. You most likely won’t notice that you have one. While it happens rarely, you may experience symptoms like back pain. Treatment is available if your hemangioma irritates you or causes complications.

Living With

When should I see a healthcare provider?

Visit a healthcare provider if you experience any symptoms of a spinal hemangioma like back pain or numbness in your arms and legs.

What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?

  • Do I need treatment for a spinal hemangioma?
  • What type of treatment is best for my situation?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • Is the hemangioma “aggressive” on my spine?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

A spinal hemangioma is a type of tumor you usually don’t have to worry about. Most likely, your healthcare provider will accidentally diagnose the growth on your spine while doing an imaging test for an unrelated reason. Rare cases can cause symptoms and require treatment. If you have questions about a hemangioma, contact your healthcare provider for more information.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 12/15/2023.

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