Lymphatic Malformation

Also known as: Lymphatic Malformations

What is a lymphatic malformation?

A lymphatic malformation is a mass in the head or neck that results from an abnormal formation of lymphatic vessels. Lymphatic vessels are small canals that lie near blood vessels and help carry tissue fluids from within the body to the lymph nodes and back to the bloodstream.

There are two main types of lymphatic malformations:

  • Lymphangioma: a group of lymphatic vessels that form a mass or lump. A cavernous lymphangioma contains greatly enlarged lymphatic vessels.
  • Cystic hygroma: a large cyst or pocket of lymphatic fluid that results from blocked lymphatic vessels. A cystic hygroma may contain multiple cysts connected to each other by the lymphatic vessels. Cystic hygroma occur mainly in the neck, but also occur in the mouth, cheek and around the tissues of the ear.

What causes lymphatic malformations?

Lymphatic malformations are usually congenital defects that form during embryonic development.

What are the symptoms of lymphatic malformations?

Symptoms include: a mass or lump in the mouth, cheek or tongue or a large fluid filled mass on the back of the neck. It is usually diagnosed via a fetal ultrasound, translumination or a CT scan.

What are lymphatic malformations care options?

Common treatments for lymphatic malformations include sclerotherapy, a procedure that blocks unneeded blood vessels. Standard surgery or laser surgery can also be used to remove portions of the lymphatic malformation.

Reviewed by: Anthony F Rossi, MD

This page was last updated on: August 19, 2021 03:36 PM

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Vascular Malformations

A vascular malformation is an abnormality where clusters of blood vessels develop during fetal development. Learn more


When a disorder of the body’s lymphatic system causes a cyst or lesion to grow somewhere on the body, this is known as lymphangioma. Learn more


Sclerotherapy is a medical treatment for varicose veins or spider veins, which are visible, bulging and often aching veins frequently found in the legs. Learn more