Vertebral hemangiomas: a review on diagnosis and management

J Orthop Surg Res. 2024 May 24;19(1):310. doi: 10.1186/s13018-024-04799-5.


Background: Vertebral hemangiomas (VHs) are the most common benign tumors of the spinal column and are often encountered incidentally during routine spinal imaging.

Methods: A retrospective review of the inpatient and outpatient hospital records at our institution was performed for the diagnosis of VHs from January 2005 to September 2023. Search filters included "vertebral hemangioma," "back pain," "weakness," "radiculopathy," and "focal neurological deficits." Radiographic evaluation of these patients included plain X-rays, CT, and MRI. Following confirmation of a diagnosis of VH, these images were used to generate the figures used in this manuscript. Moreover, an extensive literature search was conducted using PubMed for the literature review portion of the manuscript.

Result: VHs are benign vascular proliferations that cause remodeling of bony trabeculae in the vertebral body of the spinal column. Horizontal trabeculae deteriorate leading to thickening of vertical trabeculae which causes a striated appearance on sagittal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT), "Corduroy sign," and a punctuated appearance on axial imaging, "Polka dot sign." These findings are seen in "typical vertebral hemangiomas" due to a low vascular-to-fat ratio of the lesion. Contrarily, atypical vertebral hemangiomas may or may not demonstrate the "Corduroy" or "Polka-dot" signs due to lower amounts of fat and a higher vascular component. Atypical vertebral hemangiomas often mimic other neoplastic pathologies, making diagnosis challenging. Although most VHs are asymptomatic, aggressive vertebral hemangiomas can present with neurologic sequelae such as myelopathy and radiculopathy due to nerve root and/or spinal cord compression. Asymptomatic vertebral hemangiomas do not require therapy, and there are many treatment options for vertebral hemangiomas causing pain, radiculopathy, and/or myelopathy. Surgery (corpectomy, laminectomy), percutaneous techniques (vertebroplasty, sclerotherapy, embolization), and radiotherapy can be used in combination or isolation as appropriate. Specific treatment options depend on the lesion's size/location and the extent of neural element compression. There is no consensus on the optimal treatment plan for symptomatic vertebral hemangioma patients, although management algorithms have been proposed.

Conclusion: While typical vertebral hemangioma diagnosis is relatively straightforward, the differential diagnosis is broad for atypical and aggressive lesions. There is an ongoing debate as to the best approach for managing symptomatic cases, however, surgical resection is often considered first line treatment for patients with neurologic deficit.

Keywords: Fusion; Laminectomy; Radiotherapy; Sclerotherapy; Vertebral hemangioma; Vertebroplasty.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Hemangioma* / diagnosis
  • Hemangioma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Hemangioma* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed