Cystic Hygroma

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Cystic hygroma facts

  • Cystic hygroma (CH) is a cluster of cysts in the lymph drainage system that usually affects the head and neck of children (fetuses and newborns to age 2 years).
  • Cystic hygromas are congenital malformations in the lymph system.
  • The cause is unknown but may be related to genetic changes in the fetus.
  • Symptoms and signs include the appearance of clusters of cysts that are sometimes visible with the naked eye and may cause breathing difficulties, feeding problems, sleep apnea, and failure to thrive.
  • If the cystic hygroma is not visible, it still can be diagnosed using CT scan, MRI scan, ultrasound and other techniques.
  • Although medical treatment can be used, consisting of drugs that shrink down the cysts, many clinicians prefer surgical treatment to remove all of the cystic tissue.
  • Although many patients have a good outcome, there are several indicators like abnormal fluid accumulation in two more fetal compartments like heart or lungs (fetal hydrops) or thickness of the lesion wall that suggest a poor outcome.
  • Cystic hygromas are very infrequently seen in adults.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/2/2015

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