Cystic Hygroma

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 14 April 2021

What Is a Cystic Hygroma?

A cystic hygroma is an uncommon form of cyst that may develop in a baby's lymphatic system when it is still growing, typically in the head or neck. (This system aids in the removal of potentially dangerous substances, such as bacteria.) Cystic hygromas are often discovered when a baby is born.

This type of cyst is seen in just one out of every 8,000 births. Any of them could have birth abnormalities as well. If your kid has a cystic hygroma, your doctor would most likely recommend scans to rule out any issues. Some babies born with a cystic hygroma, on the other hand, are healthy.

On occasion, these cysts will also go away on their own. If not, it's critical to get a cystic hygroma surgically removed so it doesn't damage surrounding organs, get infected, or cause your baby discomfort as they grow.

Cystic Hygroma Symptoms

The symptoms of a cystic hygroma vary depending on where it is located and how large it is. The development can make it difficult for surrounding organs and other body parts to function properly.

A cystic hygroma appears as a bulge under the skin of newborn infants and may be slightly blue. Babies born with cystic hygromas also have difficulty feeding and grow at a slower rate than those that do not have cystic hygromas. Your kid may have difficulty breathing if the cystic hygroma is near the throat. These cysts have the potential to become infected. The cystic hygroma will damage surrounding bones and teeth if left untreated.

The cystic hygroma will increase in size as your baby develops, and it can develop rapidly if the cyst gets compromised or bleeds.

Cystic Hygroma Causes

The way a baby's lymphatic system develops can be affected by both their genetics and their environment in the womb. Cystic hygromas grow in this way. It may occur on its own or in correlation with genetic disorders like Turner, Down, or Noonan syndromes.

Adults can develop a cystic hygroma as a result of trauma or a previous respiratory infection. However, it's not really obvious what caused the cyst. It might also disappear during pregnancy.

Cystic Hygroma Diagnosis

During a routine ultrasound when you're pregnant, your doctor may discover your baby's cystic hygroma. By the 20th week of birth, these cysts are normally discovered. It's possible that you'll find it after your kid is born, or perhaps later in their lives.

If you find out your kid has a cystic hygroma when you're pregnant, your doctor would likely prescribe genetic tests to see if there are any other issues. This may involve the following:

  • CVS (chorionic villus sampling). Some of these straggly bits of tissue that share the baby's genetic makeup are removed by the specialist from the placenta.
  • Amniocentesis. A sample of the amniotic fluid is tested for hereditary conditions.
  • You'll also get regular ultrasounds to monitor the cyst for changes and any problems.

At 38 weeks, the doctor would most likely arrange for you to give birth by C-section. Look for a facility that offers both neonatal intensive care and pediatric surgery. The doctor will assist you in making your decision.

If the baby shows symptoms of a cystic hygroma after birth, scans such as a chest X-ray, ultrasound, and an MRI or CT scan can be used to identify the cyst.

Cystic Hygroma Treatment

A cystic hygroma is removed by surgery. There's a 15% risk it'll come back if traces of it are left behind. Other options, while they don't work as well as surgery, include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Steroids
  • Sclerotherapy (injection of a salt solution)

Cystic Hygroma Complications

A cystic hygroma may cause you to produce too much or too little amniotic fluid, endangering your unborn child. It sometimes results in a miscarriage. Other problems may arise if a baby is born with a cystic hygroma.

  • The mass could obstruct your baby's airway.
  • It's possible that your child could develop facial deformities.
  • Cellulitis is a skin inflammation that may be caused by a cyst.
  • Nerve trauma and heavy bleeding may occur during surgery to remove it.
  • It's possible that the cystic hygroma may return.

As a parent, you may want to get help from organizations that specialize in this disease, such as the nonprofit Birth Defect Research for Children and the Lymphatic Education and Research Network.


Referenced on  10.4.2021

  2. National Institutes of Health: “Cystic Hygroma.”
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Cystic Hygroma.”
  4. The Fetal Medicine Foundation: “Cystic Hygroma.”
  5. Kaiser Permanente: “Prenatal Ultrasound Findings: What Is a Cystic Hygroma?”
  6. Emory University School of Medicine: “Cystic Hygroma.”

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