Infantile hemangiomas are a type of vascular birthmark, meaning they are composed of blood vessels. These non-cancerous birthmarks are typically discovered either at birth or shortly after birth. Over half of all hemangiomas occur on the head or neck and they are three times as likely to occur in females. Premature infants also see a more frequent occurrence of hemangiomas.
How Hemangiomas Develop
While researchers do not know exactly why hemangiomas occur, three distinct phases of their development have been identified. Each phase will display certain characteristics that make them identifiable. These phases are:
- Proliferation (first 6-12 months) usually shows rapid growth and can be accompanied by ulcerative skin breakdown.
- Plateau (from 6 months to 1 year old) is when the hemangioma stabilizes and seems to have no noticeable changes.
- Involution (begins near the end of first year) is characterized by fading color and a flattening of the raised portion of the hemangioma.
As most hemangiomas do not require treatment, your specialist will watch its development in your child for any signs of complications. If the hemangioma interferes with sight, breathing, cardiac functions or presents other difficulties, your specialist may recommend medical treatment as a first course of action to reduce the hemangioma.
Beta Blockers are a Common Medical Treatment for Infantile Hemangiomas
Anti-hypertensive drugs that are popularly known as beta blockers are a common medical treatment for infantile hemangiomas. In fact, they are approved by the USDA for specific treatment of these vascular birthmarks. The two beta blockers used by The Vascular Birthmark Institute for medical management of infantile hemangiomas are Propranolol and Timolol Maleate.
This beta blocker is given as an oral solution through a small syringe, usually after meals. As it can have an effect on blood glucose levels, it is best to give it with meals to reduce the risk of blood sugar problems. Propranolol has been shown to significantly reduce the size of hemangiomas during the proliferation and involution phases.
Timolol Maleate is a topical gel that is used for treating very small, shallow hemangiomas. Although it is classified as a beta blocker, it is also used to effectively treat Glaucoma, an eye malady.
Your medical specialist at The Vascular Birthmark Institute will recommend which form of beta blocker would provide the best treatment option and instruct you in its use. Most medical hemangioma treatments are carried out for up to 10 months of age to help prevent a reoccurrence, known as rebound growth.
Effective Medical Treatment for Hemangiomas
The Vascular Birthmark Institute specializes in treating hemangiomas and other vascular malformations in patients from all over the world. Our medical treatments for hemangiomas can also include oral and injectable steroids and a specific chemotherapy drug called Vincristine that is given through a central line.
When medical treatments are not effective or recommended due to the type of hemangioma, we also offer laser treatments and different types of surgery. The specialists at The Vascular Birthmark Institute evaluate each patient and craft an individualized treatment plan when necessary. Contact us in New York City by phone at 212-434-4050 or by completing our online form to request a consultation.