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What is a Cystic Hygroma?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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Cystic hygroma is part of a group of diseases called lymphatic malformations. A cystic hygroma is a form of birth defect and it can be found either post- or prenatally. In the United States, it affects one in every six-thousand children. The words cystic hygroma means “moist tumor” and it can be described as a structure that resembles a thin-walled sac. It is usually found in the head or neck and it is more common in females than males.

A cystic hygroma generally develops as the baby matures in the mother’s womb; however, it can appear at any time during a person’s life, as well. The cyst can form because of an irregularity in the lymphatic system. It is also believed to form from the abnormal gathering of embryonic lymphatic tissue, which carries white blood cells and fluid. Other causes include environmental factors, such as a maternal infection of Fifth’s disease, maternal drug or alcohol abuse, and one of several other birth defects.

The symptoms of cystic hygroma are straightforward. There is usually a mass, bulge, or lump at the head or neck region. It can be discovered by ultrasound, at birth, or even much later in the child’s life. Sometimes, a respiratory tract infection may lead a physician to discover the disease. A cystic hygroma found prenatally, can mean that it will resolve with time – even before birth; however, it can lead to other birth defects, such as a webbed neck.

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To test for a cystic hygroma, an ultrasound, x-ray, or computed tomography (CT) scan can be performed. They will indicate whether an abnormality exists. Because it is safe for both the mother and baby, an ultrasound is best for determining if a defect exists during pregnancy. However, the position of the baby and other factors can make diagnosis challenging. It is also easy for a cyst to be confused for amniotic fluid,. In addition, amniocentesis can be done to test for any chromosomal defects that are associated with cystic hygroma.

If a cystic hygroma is discover, treatment is available. In most cases, it involves the removal of the abnormality. Unfortunately, the location of the hygroma may make removal impossible, especially if it is close to the neck bones. Consequently, other less successful treatments have been used. These include chemotherapy drugs, radiation therapy, and steroids. If complete removal cannot occur, it is highly likely that the cystic hygroma will return.

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kylee07drg
Post 4

During my sister’s pregnancy, her baby developed fetal cystic hygroma. I was with her when the doctor told her that it had progressed into hydrops. Neither of us had ever heard of hydrops, and my sister’s expression quickly changed when the doctor told us that half of the fetuses with hydrops don’t make it.

Hydrops develops because too much fluid has left the blood and gone inside of the tissues. The fetus will have severe swelling, and it can take over its organs.

The massive amount of amniotic fluid and the thickened placenta tipped the doctor off to the condition of her baby. Sadly, the baby was stillborn.

cloudel
Post 3

My best friend developed Fifths Disease during her pregnancy. At first, she thought she just had a regular cold. Then, the rash appeared.

She looked as though she had been slapped across the cheeks. The redness, itching, and sore throat really worried her, because she had read about Fifths Disease causing miscarriages, and her symptoms fit the description. She called her doctor and scheduled an ultrasound.

Her baby did develop a cystic hygroma because of the Fifths Disease, but it was a small one. She gave birth with no trouble, and the doctors were able to remove the cystic hygroma safely.

OeKc05
Post 2

My baby developed a cystic hygroma in my third trimester. It was so large that my obstetrician recommended a C-section.

He also told me that he would need to monitor her for awhile to make sure she didn’t develop any obstructions in her airway. After I gave birth, he used a thin needle to drain the cystic hygroma. He said he did it so she wouldn’t develop facial deformities.

He eventually recommended surgery to remove the cystic hygroma. After the operation, he said that the chance of it coming back was low because the surgeon was able to completely remove the wall of the cyst.

Oceana
Post 1

I knew a lady in my community who had a problem with alcohol. She had tried to get sober several times, but she always fell back into it.

She became pregnant, and she managed to stop drinking for one month. However, she was severely depressed, and even her pregnancy couldn't keep her clean.

She went for an ultrasound, and the doctor told her that her baby had developed a cystic hygroma. It had grown to be larger than the fetus itself, and her baby died before she could give birth. This tragedy sobered her up, and she hasn't drunk any alcohol since it happened.

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