Cystic hygromas will often form on a baby’s head or neck while he or she is still in the womb. Typically caused by a blockage that forms in the body’s lymphatic system, they are little more than fluid-filled cysts.
Cystic hygromas are treated in various ways. Most babies who develop a cystic hygroma while in the womb are simply monitored more closely than normal, but after birth, they undergo surgery or other therapies to have the entire growth removed. If the cyst is too large, physicians will endeavor to shrink it before continuing with its removal.
If shrinking is required, physicians may use radiation therapy, sclerotherapy, or chemotherapy. This limits the chances of surgery damaging healthy tissue and reduces risk of infection. Some cysts can also be healed medically, and physicians may prescribe OK-432, a sclerosing agent that creates an inflammatory response resulting in the fibrosis of the cyst. Additionally, bleomycin may be used, though not very often due to its toxicity, along with alcohol and interferon alfa-2a. Surgery is still the primary treatment for cystic hygromas, and the cyst must be removed entirely, otherwise it will grow back.