Kaposiform hemangioendothelioma: a study of 33 cases emphasizing its pathologic, immunophenotypic, and biologic uniqueness from juvenile hemangioma

Am J Surg Pathol. 2004 May;28(5):559-68. doi: 10.1097/00000478-200405000-00001.


Kaposiform hemangioendothelioma (KH) is a rare tumor of childhood often associated with Kasabach-Merritt phenomenon (KMP) and occasionally lymphangiomatosis. Although generally considered distinct from other vascular neoplasms, its rarity has precluded a thorough study of its immunophenotypic profile and long-term behavior. Thirty-three cases of KH were reviewed and immunostained for alpha-smooth muscle actin, various endothelial markers (CD31, CD34, vWf, FLI1), a platelet marker (CD61), and the juvenile hemangioma-associated markers GLUT-1 and Lewis Y antigen (LeY). In addition, the presence of HHV-8 was evaluated by RT-PCR. The patients (20 males and 13 females) ranged in age from 2 weeks to 20 years (mean 3 years 9 months). Tumors developed on the extremities (17 cases), head/neck (8 cases), and other sites (8 cases) and affected both superficial and deep soft tissue. Those in the skin presented as slightly raised blue-red lesions. More than half of the patients presented with KMP (14 of 25). Tumors consisted of irregular, infiltrating nodules of compressed vessels, which modulated between areas resembling a capillary hemangioma and Kaposi sarcoma (KS). Endothelial cells in nodules were CD31, CD34, and FLI1 positive but negative for GLUT1 and LeY. Scattered "epithelioid" or glomeruloid islands featuring endothelium associated with clusters of plump alpha-smooth muscle actin-positive pericytes, stippled hemosiderin, and CD61-positive fibrin thrombi likely represent the morphologic sites of platelet consumption. Small and large lymphatic channels occurred in 22 of 33 cases and were typically seen peripheral or deep to the main tumor mass. HHV-8 transcripts were not identified (0 of 3 cases). Follow-up information was available in 22 patients (range 8 months to 15 years; mean 2 years) and indicated that 3 died of disease, 8 were alive with disease, and 10 were alive without residual disease. Two patients developed regional perinodal soft tissue involvement, but none developed distant metastases. KH is a lesion having both a vascular and lymphatic component. Its common association with KMP probably relates in part to unique architectural features that favor turbulent blood flow and platelet activation. KH can also be reliably separated from JH by GLUT-1 and LeY immunostaining, indicating differences in the morphologic and functional attributes of the endothelium between the two lesions. The absence of HHV-8 in KH underscores a different pathogenesis from Kaposi sarcoma. Our study, the largest to date, emphasizes that mortality is due to KMP and not metastatic disease, which appears limited to regional perinodal soft tissue. Given this behavior, its continued classification as a vascular tumor of intermediate malignancy is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Hemangioendothelioma / chemistry
  • Hemangioendothelioma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens / analysis
  • Male
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / analysis
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / chemistry
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens
  • Lewis Y antigen
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • SLC2A1 protein, human