Subglottic Hemangioma

At Boston Children’s, we treat patients with subglottic hemangioma in our Center for Airway Disorders, one of only a handful of programs with expertise diagnosing and treating this rare disorder.

What is subglottic hemangioma?

A subglottic hemangioma is a large mass of blood vessels in the airway, typically below the vocal chords. They often grow very rapidly for six to 12 months and then start to slowly shrink.

Subglottic hemangioma is a serious condition because the mass can grow very large, obstructing the airway and affecting a child’s ability to breath. While many shrink, most will not shrink completely.

Airway hemangioma vs. skin hemangioma

Subglottic hemangiomas have a strong association with skin hemangiomas, a common type of birthmark. Children diagnosed with a hemangioma in their airway often already have skin hemangiomas (sometimes called “strawberry marks”) on their skin, scalp, or back.

  • Skin hemangiomas are benign and often go away on their own without treatment.
  • Airway hemangiomas may require swift treatment because of their location in the airway and potential to be life threatening.

Read more about our comprehensive subglottic hemangioma treatment options at Boston Children’s.

What are the symptoms of subglottic hemangioma?

Subglottic hemangioma is easily misdiagnosed because there are few signs and symptoms.

Children who develop hemangiomas in the airway often have them elsewhere on their skin (skin hemangioma), where they appear as a benign birthmark made up of a cluster of blood vessels.

Symptoms include:

  • persistent cough that may sound like croup
  • noisy breathing or stridor
  • troubled breathing

Children with a severe subglottic hemangioma may actually appear to be in respiratory distress. Our team at the Center for Airway Disorders is one the most experienced centers in the world diagnosing this rare disorder. Learn more about expert subglottic hemangioma diagnosis at Boston Children’s.

What causes subglottic hemangioma?

Hemangiomas are not hereditary (meaning they do not get passed down from parent to child). There is no known food, activity or medication during pregnancy that can cause a hemangioma to develop.

Research at Boston Children’s Vascular Biology Program has found that hemangiomas form from stem cells. This important discovery is helping our team investigate whether medications can stop their growth.

Why choose Boston Children’s for subglottic hemangioma treatment?

Families choose our expert team at our Center for Airway Disorders because we offer:

  • Unmatched expertise: Many physicians will never encounter this rare airway disorder, but our expert team has treated or consulted on many cases over the past 20 years, giving us extensive experience treating it in children of all ages, even the most complex cases.
  • Comprehensive care plans: Complex hemangioma patients often have other medical needs that require treatment, from heart complications to severe hemangiomas on their skin or liver. We carefully coordinate all aspects of a child’s medical needs with our partners throughout the hospital — from our Benderson Family Heart Center, ranked no. 1 in the U.S., to our Vascular Anomalies Center, considered the best of its kind in the world.
  • Advanced treatment options: Even though subglottic hemangioma is rare, our team has developed a treatment plan involving the most advanced approaches, the latest medications (including propranolol), laser treatment, and, when necessary, minimally invasive surgery.
  • Customized care: Our team knows that subglottic hemangioma may require customized treatment courses in every child, so we tailor our approach to a child’s needs.

Consults for subglottic hemangioma

We offer second opinions and consultations for patients living across the U.S. and around the world. If travel prohibits your child from receiving ongoing care on-site at our Boston hospital, our experts are available to evaluate your child and consult with a local physician to recommend the best treatment course.

If your child is an international patient, learn more about making an appointment through Boston Children’s Global Services.