A systematic approach to vertebral hemangioma

Simona Gaudino, Matia Martucci, Raffaella Colantonio, Emilio Lozupone, Emiliano Visconti, Antonio Leone, Cesare Colosimo

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54 Citations (SciVal)


Vertebral hemangiomas (VHs) are a frequent and often incidental finding on computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the spine. When their imaging appearance is "typical" (coarsened vertical trabeculae on radiographic and CT images, hyperintensity on T1- and T2-weighted MR images), the radiological diagnosis is straightforward. Nonetheless, VHs might also display an "atypical" appearance on MR imaging because of their histological features (amount of fat, vessels, and interstitial edema). Although the majority of VHs are asymptomatic and quiescent lesions, they can exhibit active behaviors, including growing quickly, extending beyond the vertebral body, and invading the paravertebral and/or epidural space with possible compression of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots ("aggressive" VHs). These "atypical" and "aggressive" VHs are a radiological challenge since they can mimic primary bony malignancies or metastases. CT plays a central role in the workup of atypical VHs, being the most appropriate imaging modality to highlight the polka-dot appearance that is representative of them. When aggressive VHs are suspected, both CT and MR are needed. MR is the best imaging modality to characterize the epidural and/or soft-tissue component, helping in the differential diagnosis. Angiography is a useful imaging adjunct for evaluating and even treating aggressive VHs. The primary objectives of this review article are to summarize the clinical, pathological, and imaging features of VHs, as well as the treatment options, and to provide a practical guide for the differential diagnosis, focusing on the rationale assessment of the findings from radiography, CT, and MR imaging.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
JournalSkeletal Radiology
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • hemangioma
  • vertebral


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