Objective: We describe the sonographic appearance and vascularization of hemangiomas and determine if vessel density and peak systolic Doppler shifts distinguish hemangiomas from other superficial soft-tissue masses.
Subjects and methods: Our pilot study included 20 infants and children with hemangiomas who were to undergo biopsy before treatment with interferon alpha-2b. We used Doppler sonography to determine the number of vessels per square centimeter, peak arterial Doppler shift, resistive index, and signs of arteriovenous shunting. All hemangiomas showed high vessel density (more than five per square centimeter) and high Doppler shifts (more than 2 kHz), and these two factors became our diagnostic criteria. A prospective study of 116 patients was then carried out. One hundred sixteen consecutive pediatric patients with superficial soft-tissue masses were examined using Doppler sonography; sonographic findings were compared with the final diagnoses that were established by biopsy, CT, or clinical follow-up.
Results: The final diagnoses included 70 hemangiomas, 20 venous malformations, three arteriovenous malformations, three arteriolocapillary malformations, and 20 other masses. Fifty-nine lesions showing high vessel density (more than five per square centimeter) and a peak arterial Doppler shift exceeding 2 kHz were correctly diagnosed as hemangiomas (sensitivity, 84%; specificity, 98%). One arteriovenous malformation showed high vessel density and high Doppler shifts, but none of the other masses that were not hemangiomas did. Eleven patients with hemangiomas who were being treated with interferon at the time of the study fulfilled only one of the two diagnostic criteria.
Conclusion: High vessel density and high peak arterial Doppler shift can be used to distinguish hemangiomas from other soft-tissue masses.