Infantile hemangioma: pathogenesis and mechanisms of action of propranolol

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Infantile hemangioma (IH) is the most common benign tumor of childhood, with a prevalence of 4 % to 10 %. It is characterized by a proliferative rapid growth phase, which starts after a few weeks of life, followed by a slow regression phase. In IH cases that are potentially disfiguring or life-threatening (10 % to 15 % of all cases), systemic therapy should be promptly initiated.

Data source:

The present study reviews published scientific articles available in reliable electronic databases. Selected were all studies that evaluated the pathogenesis of IH and the mechanisms of action of propranolol.


The pathogenesis of IH has not been fully elucidated. Studies show that, in the proliferative phase of IH, there is an imbalance of angiogenic factors and an increase in the levels of vascular endothelial growth factor and matrix metalloproteinases 2 and 9. In the regression phase, the levels of these factors decrease, whereas those of antiangiogenic factors, including tissue inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases, increase. Since 2008, propranolol has become the drug of choice in the treatment of IH, targeting vascular tone, angiogenesis, and apoptosis. Current insights into the pathogenesis of IH allow for the development of new therapeutic strategies.

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