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Angiomyolipoma - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Pictures

Updated on January 8, 2014


What is Angiomyolipoma?

This medical condition is a fatty tumor that can form on your kidneys and is the most common one. It is a benign tumor which means that it is non-cancerous. Along with fatty tissue they are also made of vessels and muscle. The incident rate of having an angiomyolipoma is about point three percent in general population. If you have tuberous sclerosis, which is a genetic disease that is characterized by having benign tumors in your brain and other organs too, the incident rate is higher, especially in women. They are also known as renal angiomyolipoma. Although it is rare they can cause hemorrhaging or become cancerous. For an unknown reason approximately eighty percent of these benign tumors form in the right kidney.


Most of the time angiomyolipoma does not cause any symptoms. If there are any symptoms it happens when the benign tumor is almost one point six inches in size or larger. If there are any symptoms they will be similar to other kidney diseases including symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Protein or blood in your urine
  • Frequent urination

As the tumor grows there can be other symptoms such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Fever

Most times these symptoms will occur in people who have tuberous sclerosis, when there are multiple tumors, or when they are very large. In addition, the large tumors are also at risk of hemorrhaging. This can be a life-threatening complication.


Most angiomyolipoma will grow without having any underlying cause. If you have tuberous sclerosis then you are more at risk for developing these tumors on your kidney. Approximately eighty percent of people with this genetic disease will develop one or more of these benign tumors on their kidneys.


If the tumors are small and isolated they could remain undiagnosed. Usually they are only diagnosed when the patient goes for a medical imaging scan for a condition that is unrelated to angiomyolipoma. The benign tumors that are associated with tuberous sclerosis are normally diagnosed because if you have this condition you undergo medical imaging tests regularly for screening purposes. There are three methods that physicians can use to diagnosis angiomyolipoma. These include:


This is a standard test that is used because it is particularly sensitive to the fat that makes up the tumor. This imaging test is less sensitive to the solid components. It is not easy to make an accurate measurement with this test.

CT scan

This is stands for computed tomography and is a very fast, detained imaging test. This test will give you accurate measurement of the tumor. The drawback to this test is that the patient is exposed to radiation along with the dangers of the contrast dye that they use to help with the scanning. The dye could cause damage to your kidneys.


This stands for magnetic resonance imaging and is safer than have a CT scan done. Unfortunately many patients that have behavioral problems or learning difficulties that are found in some patients with tuberous sclerosis will have to have general anesthesia or sedation and the scan cannot be done fast.

If there is a lesion that is growing at the rate of greater than five millimeters a year the physician may opt to do a biopsy.


Angiomyolipoma that are asymptomatic, which means there are no symptoms, may not need any treatment as long as the tumors stay small. If it becomes a larger tumor it may need to be removed surgically in order to prevent if from hemorrhaging. When these tumors reach a certain size they are prone to spontaneous hemorrhaging. The reason is that the walls of the blood vessels found in the tumors are weak structurally. It is rare that the physician will have the kidney completely removed but if the kidney has multiple tumors or the patient has tuberous sclerosis they may have to have them removed.

There is an alternative treatment that can be done called trans-catheter arterial embolization. It can be a very painful treatment. This treatment will be done in preference to having the kidney removed. When this procedure is done the artery that is feeding the kidney is catheterized. Then a substance that will cause your blood vessels to coagulate is fed into the tumor to help prevent it from hemorrhaging. This option will only be used with a person has multiple renal tumors as the result of having tuberous sclerosis. It is not done in cases of spontaneous isolated tumors.

If you have tuberous sclerosis you should have yearly renal scans to check for angiomyolipoma.


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    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Interesting and so very useful.

      Have a great day .