Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment of Hemangioblastoma

Hemangioblastoma are benign brain tumors that are most commonly seen in the cerebellum (back part of the brain) but can also occur in the brain stem and spinal cord. They are often cystic in appearance with a small solid nodule inside the cyst. The nodule consists of a tangle of abnormal blood vessels. These brain tumors can be associated with a genetic disease called von Hippel-Lindau disease. These brain tumors tend to grow slowly. They are most commonly seen in patients between 35 and 45 years of age.

The most common symptoms relate to elevated pressure inside the skull, caused by blockage of spinal fluid. This causes hydrocephalus. Symptoms can include headache, nausea and vomiting. The other cause of symptoms is from pressure on the cerebellar tissue. This can cause trouble with coordination on the side of the tumor, balance problems, dizziness and trouble walking.

A careful history and physical examination are the first step in diagnosis. A CT scan or MRI scan is the next step in diagnosis. Occasionally an angiogram (x-ray of the blood vessels) will be performed.

The standard treatment is surgery. Sometimes a shunt procedure might need to be performed if there is severe or persistent hydrocephalus. Occasionally radiation treatment might be necessary.