Glomangiomas, also known as glomus tumours, are benign vascular tumours typically seen at the distal extremities. These tumours should not be confused with paragangliomas (sometimes referred to as glomus tumour). 

It classically presents in young to middle aged (4th to 5th decades 7). There is a recognised female predilection. They can be multiple in ~ 10% of cases. Glomus tumors account for 1-5% of the soft-tissue tumors in the hand 4.

The lesion usually presents as a small firm red-blue nodule under the finger nail and is exquisitely painful. Sometimes the pain is worse at night; it may disappear when a tourniquet is applied.

May also present as haemorrhage under the nail. The presence of the Hildreth sign (pain following the application of a tourniquet proximally) is considered pathognomonic on clinical grounds 7.

Glomus tumours originate from the neuromyoarterial plexus: modified smooth muscle cells of the glomus body. They are best thought of as harmatomas rather than true tumours. There are two main components on microscopy:

  • branching vascular channels
  • aggregates of specialised glomus cells

Approximately 75% occur in the hand 4.

Conventional radiography
  • the tumour is difficult if not impossible to identify - rarely can be seen as a subtle soft tissue density
  • may show a marginated osseous erosion or thinning of the adjacent cortical bone

Signal characteristics include:

  • T1: low to intermediate signal
  • T1 C+(Gd): shows contrast enhancement (usually uniform) due to vascularity
  • T2: high signal 
  • subungual hypoechoic lesion at the region of maximum tenderness
  • hypervascularity on Doppler interrogation

Treatment is surgical resection.

General imaging differential considerations include:

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Article Information

rID: 1390
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Glomangioma (glomus tumour)
  • Subungual glomus tumour
  • Subungual glomus tumor
  • Glomangiomas
  • Subungual glomus tumors
  • Subungual glomus tumours
  • Tumors of Popoff
  • Barré-Masson syndrome
  • Tumours of Popoff
  • Glomus tumours of the bone
  • Glomus tumours of bone

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Cases and Figures

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