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Am Orthopt J. 2013;63:6-13. doi: 10.3368/aoj.63.1.6.

Infantile hemangioma: treatment with surgery or steroids.



Infantile hemangiomas (IH) often pose a significant risk to visual development. The lesions interfere with visual development by causing deprivation, astigmatism, or strabismus. Propranolol has been suggested as the new standard of care for treatment of IH. Alternative treatments such as intralesional steroids or surgery may need to be considered as equal or better treatments in some cases. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the potential risks and benefits of the various modalities for periocular IH.


A literature search was conducted for IH and propranolol, steroids, and surgery. The pertinent published literature on surgical resection of IH were reviewed and summarized. A retrospective analysis was also performed of the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital (VCH) surgical case series of twelve children who underwent surgical resection of a sight threatening IH.


Seven articles reported twenty or more patients treated with propranolol for IH. Many of these patients only had a partial response to propranolol in spite of months of treatment. In addition to the impact on IH, propranolol has been demonstrated to block neural pathways critical for learning and memory. Twelve children underwent surgical resection of a visual threatening IH at VCH. Two of these children had failed treatment with oral propranolol. The average time of surgery was 80 minutes. All twelve children had immediate resolution of the visual compromise.


Early surgical intervention can successfully and quickly result in excellent visual and anatomic outcomes. Propranolol may have unrecognized neurocognitive impact and should be reserved for those lesions unamenable to surgical or local steroid injection.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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