Management of patients with giant hemangiomas of the liver encounters persistent controversy. Although recent case series suggest a low complication rate with nonoperative management, the classic paradigm of preventive operative resection remains.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted of 492 patients with giant hepatic hemangioma (>4 cm in size) diagnosed between 1985 and 2005 at Mayo Clinic Rochester. Long-term outcomes were assessed by patient survey, with a follow-up of 11 ± 6.4 years.
Of 492 patients, 289 responded to the survey. In the nonoperative group (n = 233), 20% had persistent or new onset of hemangioma-associated symptoms, including potentially life-threatening complications in 2%. In the operative group (n = 56), perioperative complications occurred in 14%, including potentially life-threatening complications in 7%. None of the operative patients had persistent or new onset of hemangioma-associated symptoms after resection of the dominant hemangioma. In group comparison, the rate of adverse events was similar (20% versus 14%; p = 0.45) with an overall low risk for potentially life-threatening complications (2% versus 7%; p = 0.07). Size of hemangiomas was not associated with adverse events in either group. Subjective health status and quality of life at follow-up were similar in both groups (p > 0.54).
Clinical observation of patients with giant hemangioma of the liver has a similar rate of complications compared with operative management, but might prevent the need for invasive interventions in some patients. Clinical observation is preferred in most patients and operative treatment should be reserved for patients with severe symptoms or disease-associated complications.