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Hamartoma | Overview

What is a hamartoma?

A hamartoma is an abnormal growth that's made up of the same tissue from which it grows.

  • The abnormality is that there are an excess number of cells that are structurally different from the main cells.
  • A hamartoma occurs when the tissue in the growth did not develop completely.
  • Hamartomas can occur throughout the body, but are often found in the head and neck, particularly around the ears.
  • If hamartomas occur in multiple sites throughout the body, their presence is called Cowden's disease.

What are the symptoms of a hamartoma?

Every child experiences symptoms differently. Some common symptoms that your child may have include:

  • swelling or lump in the head or neck
  • pain in the chin, neck, or face
  • hoarseness

What causes a hamartoma?

Although we don't know the exact cause of hamartomas, there does seem to be a tendency for them to occur within families.

How is a hamartoma diagnosed?

Your child's doctor will do a complete medical history and a physical exam, including an examination of your child's throat and neck.

Other diagnostic procedures for a hamartoma may include:

  • Ultrasounds (also called sonography) are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans show detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) produces detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
  • A biopsy is a simple surgical procedure by which a physician removes a small sample of affected body tissue so that it can be studied to identify the cause of the symptoms

How are hamartomas treated?

Your child's doctor will surgically remove the hamartoma. Once the tumor is removed, your child should recover completely, depending on the size and location of the growth.

However, sometimes the tumor may recur and require additional surgery.

Hypothalamic hamartomas and epilepsy

A hamartoma in the hypothalamus can cause your child to have seizures. Recent studies have shown that using laser ablation to remove this kind of hamartoma has been incredibly effective. Boston Children's neurosurgeons Joseph Madsen, MD, and Scellig Stone, MD, PhD, are two of only a handful of experts offering this minimally invasive therapy.

Hamartoma | Programs & Services