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What Is an Angiomyolipoma?

Nausea and abdominal pain may be symptoms of an angiomyolipoma.
Weight gain may be experienced when the size of an angiomyolipoma increases.
Surgery may be required to remove a large angiomyolipoma to prevent hemorrhaging.
Article Details
  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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An angiomyolipoma is a benign fatty tumor that can form in kidneys. They are made up of muscle and vessels as well as fatty tissue. The incidence rate in the general population is about 0.3%, although that figure is much higher when associated with a condition called tuberous sclerosis. Most of these tumors are harmless and are isolated cases that do not recur although, very rarely, one can become cancerous or cause hemorrhaging.

About 80% of angiomyolipomas develop spontaneously in the absence of any other disease. More than half of tumors do not cause any symptoms, with symptoms more likely to occur if the tumor approaches or exceeds 1.6 inches (4 cm) in size. They usually are non-threatening, but larger tumors can cause potentially serious symptoms. For an unknown reason, about 80% form in the right kidney.

Most tumors grow without any underlying cause, but people with a genetic condition called tuberous sclerosis are at increased risk of developing an angiomyolipoma. This rare disease causes tumors to grow in many organs, including the brain, heart, lungs and skin, in addition to the kidneys. Up to 80% of people with tuberous sclerosis develop one or more on the kidneys, which are also called renal angiomyolipomas.

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As the fatty tumor grows larger, it can cause abdominal pain, fever, nausea and weight loss. These symptoms are much more likely to occur in people who have tuberous sclerosis, as they generally occur when tumors are very large or when multiple tumors are present. Large tumors are at risk of hemorrhaging, which is potentially life-threatening.

Small, isolated tumors are unlikely to cause symptoms and might remain undiagnosed altogether. They often are diagnosed only when a patient undergoes a medical imaging scan for an unrelated condition. Those that are associated with tuberous sclerosis are more likely to be diagnosed, because people with this condition undergo regular medical imaging tests for screening purposes.

Asymptomatic tumors need not be treated as long as they remain small, but a larger tumor might need to be removed to prevent hemorrhaging. Angiomyolipomas are prone to spontaneous hemorrhage once they reach a certain size because the walls of blood vessels in these tumors are structurally weak. Rarely, a kidney might need to be removed altogether; this usually is carried out only in someone with tuberous sclerosis and when a kidney contains multiple tumors.

An alternative treatment, called transcatheter arterial embolization, might sometimes be carried out in preference to kidney removal. In this procedure, an artery that feeds the kidney is catheterized, and a substance that causes blood vessels to coagulate is fed into the tumor to prevent hemorrhaging. This option is used only when someone with tuberous sclerosis has multiple renal tumors and is not carried out in cases of spontaneous isolated ones.

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Discuss this Article

anon942450
Post 7

I drove myself to the er with severe back, flank pain. A ct showed a 11cm tumor on the right adrenal gland and lots of bleeding. Renal embolization to was performed to stop the bleeding. This article gives me a clear idea of what has happened and what will happen with these forms of lipomas. Thanks for the info.

anon352339
Post 6

I was diagnosed with angiomyolipoma in September and was advised to either have embolization or removal surgery. Can anybody tell me which treatment is better, safer and has the fewest complications, please?

anon313189
Post 5

I lost my right kidney due to angios, also had a pheochromocytoma, a tumor in the adrenal gland, which caused a heart attack due to an adrenaline surge. They removed my adrenal gland. Now I have angios in my left kidney and was told by the neurologist today the two together very very uncommon. I will be having genetic testing in the near future.

anon309183
Post 4

This is a good article. I had a angiomyolipoma removed from my left kidney three years ago. It was very painful prior to surgery. The tumor was on the vena cava so it was a challenge for the surgeon to remove it without taking the whole kidney. Recently, I have the symptoms back in full force and suspect a recurrence of the tumor.

anon283269
Post 3

I just had my right kidney removed due to this type of tumor, 9cm with no symptoms and discovered by accident. This article was very helpful in understanding what it was.

anon223696
Post 2

Thank you for a clear and comprehensive article. I just read the results of my scan and your article has prepared me well for my next visit to the urologist.

anon201217
Post 1

Thank you! I was just diagnosed, and this is the first article that I feel truly explains what this is in an easy to understand manner.

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