What Are Cystic Hygromas?
hygromas are abnormal growths that usually appear on a baby’s neck or head. They
consist of one or more cysts and tend to grow larger over time. This disorder
most often develops while the baby is still in the womb. However, a cystic hygroma
can also appear after birth.
hygromas are fluid-filled sacs caused by blockages in the lymphatic system (a
network of organs and tissues that help remove toxins and waste from your body).
They usually form between the ninth and 16th week of pregnancy. Approximately
half of all fetuses with a cystic hygroma have chromosomal abnormalities. Chromosomes
are the cells that house our DNA, and when large segments of them are missing
or damaged, serious medical complications can occur. However, your baby is
unlikely to have a chromosomal abnormality if the cystic hygroma goes away by
hygromas can also increase the risk of miscarriage and may even be life-threatening.
Doctors recommend that you schedule your delivery in a major medical center if
a hygroma is detected during pregnancy.
What Causes Cystic Hygromas
hygromas can develop due to genetic disorders or environmental factors. One or
more growths may be present at the time of diagnosis.
environmental causes of cystic hygromas are:
infections passed from the mother to the baby during pregnancy
to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
hygromas are seen more often in infants with genetic diseases. They are
particularly common in infants with chromosomal abnormalities. Some genetic
conditions associated with hygromas include:
syndrome — where female children have one X chromosome instead of two
- Trisomy 13, 18, or 21 — conditions where children have an extra
copy of a chromosome
- Noonan syndrome — a disorder caused by a mutation (change) in
one of seven particular genes
What Are the Symptoms of
hygromas may not be noticeable when the baby is born. They can become visible
as they grow larger and the child gets older. Cystic hygromas will usually appear
by the time the child is 2 years old.
symptom of a cystic hygroma is the presence of a soft, spongy lump. This lump
most commonly appears on the neck. However, a cystic hygroma can also form in
the armpits and groin area.
hygromas range in size from smaller than a quarter to as large as a baseball.
Larger growths may interfere with movement or cause other difficulties.
Diagnosing Cystic Hygromas
will order an amniocentesis if they
notice a cystic hygroma during an ultrasound. An amniocentesis can check for genetic
abnormalities in your fetus.
test, you’ll lie on an exam table while your doctor cleans your belly with an
iodine solution. Using ultrasound as a guide, your doctor will then use a
needle to take a sample of fluid from the amniotic sac.
will be used to make a diagnosis if cystic hygromas aren’t found until after the
child is born. These include:
Treating Cystic Hygromas
hygromas aren’t treated while the baby is in the womb. Instead, your doctor
will closely monitor your baby’s health. You’ll likely need to schedule your
delivery at a major medical center in case there are complications at the time
A cystic hygroma
is usually treatable if it’s found after birth. The first step of treatment is
surgery. The entire growth must be removed to prevent it from coming back.
cases, however, your doctor may not want to remove large cystic hygromas. Since
these growths usually aren’t cancerous, doctors won’t want to get rid of them
if there’s a risk of damaging any healthy tissue. Instead, other techniques may
be used to shrink large cystic hygromas:
aren’t very effective in treating small cystic hygromas, but they may be useful
in shrinking large growths. Once the growth is small enough, it’s easier to
never try to puncture or drain a cystic hygroma yourself. It may cause severe
bleeding and lead to an infection.
Long-Term Outlook for
Babies with Cystic Hygromas
potential complications of cystic hygromas are:
in the affected area
to muscles, nerves, or tissues from surgery to remove the hygroma
outlook for babies with cystic hygromas is generally good if the growths appear
after birth. This is especially true if the growths can be completely removed. If
they can’t be removed, cystic hygromas may return or spread to other areas.