Learn About Cystic Hygroma

What is the definition of Cystic Hygroma?

A cystic hygroma is a growth that often occurs in the head and neck area. It is a birth defect.

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What are the alternative names for Cystic Hygroma?

Lymphangioma; Lymphatic malformation

What are the causes of Cystic Hygroma?

A cystic hygroma occurs as the baby grows in the womb. It forms from pieces of material that carry fluid and white blood cells. This material is called embryonic lymphatic tissue.

After birth, a cystic hygroma most often looks like a soft bulge under the skin. The cyst may not be found at birth. It typically grows as the child grows. Sometimes it is not noticed until the child is older.

What are the symptoms of Cystic Hygroma?

A common symptom is a neck growth. It may be found at birth, or discovered later in an infant after an upper respiratory tract infection (such as a cold).

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What are the current treatments for Cystic Hygroma?

Treatment involves removing all of the abnormal tissue. However, cystic hygromas can often grow, making it impossible to remove all of the tissue.

Other treatments have been tried with only limited success. These include:

  • Chemotherapy medicines
  • Injection of sclerosing medicines
  • Radiation therapy
  • Steroids
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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Cystic Hygroma?

The outlook is good if surgery can totally remove the abnormal tissue. In cases where complete removal is not possible, the cystic hygroma commonly returns.

The long-term outcome may also depend on what other chromosomal abnormalities or birth defects, if any, are present.

What are the possible complications of Cystic Hygroma?

Complications may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Damage to structures in the neck caused by surgery
  • Infection
  • Return of the cystic hygroma
When should I contact a medical professional for Cystic Hygroma?

If you notice a lump in your neck or your child's neck, contact your health care provider.

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Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: August 31, 2021
Published By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Bell EB, Nugent A, El-Deiry MW. Differential diagnosis of neck masses. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 113.

Kelly M, Tower RL, Camitta BM. Abnormalities of lymphatic vessels. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 516.

Marcdante KJ, Kliegman RM. Lower airway, parenchymal, and pulmonary vascular diseases. In: Marcdante KJ, Kliegman RM, eds. Nelson Essentials of Pediatrics. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 136.

Richards DS. Obstetric ultrasound: imaging, dating, growth, and anomaly. In: Landon MB, Galan HL, Jauniaux ERM, et al, eds. Gabbe's Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 9.