Definition: A hemangioblastoma is a rare, benign tumor that arises from cells that line the blood vessels.  The World Health Organization classifies this tumor as a grade I tumor.  It occurs most often in the cerebellum but can also occur in the spine or other parts of the brain. The tumor is highly vascular (has a lot of blood vessels) and can bleed into the brain. 

Symptoms: The most common symptoms of a hemangioblastoma are problems with balance and coordination or symptoms of increased intracranial pressure due to hydrocephalus, a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain due to blockage of its flow. Typical symptoms of increased intracranial pressure are headache, nausea, vomiting, vision problems, and changes in behavior.  

Evaluation: Hemangioblastomas are best evaluated with MRI scans and, often, a cerebral angiogram before surgery.  A cerebral angiogram is a procedure in which contrast dye is injected into a blood vessel in the arm, groin, or neck to illuminate blood vessels in the brain.

Treatment Options: 

  • Surgery: Surgical removal of as much of the tumor as possible without causing neurological damage is the treatment of choice for a hemangioblastoma. 
  • Radiation:  Radiosurgery to the residual tumor may be considered if complete surgical removal is not possible. 

Follow-up: Long-term follow-up with regular brain scans and neurological exams is recommended to watch for tumor recurrence.