Hygroma Colli: A Fluid-Filled Cystic Mass in the Neck

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Hygroma Colli: A Comprehensive Guide


Hygroma colli, also known as cystic lymphangioma of the neck, is a benign, fluid-filled cystic swelling that occurs in the neck region. It is relatively rare, affecting approximately 1 in 100,000 people. Hygroma colli typically presents in infants or young children and is more common in females than males.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of hygroma colli is unknown, but it is believed to be a developmental abnormality that occurs during fetal development. It results from the abnormal formation and failure of lymphatic channels to drain fluid properly.

Certain risk factors have been associated with an increased risk of developing hygroma colli, including:

  • Genetic abnormalities, such as Turner syndrome (a chromosomal condition affecting females)
  • Down syndrome (a genetic disorder characterized by intellectual disability and distinct physical features)
  • Noonan syndrome (a genetic disorder affecting children and causing a broad spectrum of physical and developmental abnormalities)
  • Trisomy 21p (a genetic condition involving an extra copy of part of chromosome 21)


Hygroma colli typically presents as a soft, painless swelling at the base of the neck. It may be present at birth or develop within the first few months of life. The swelling can vary in size, ranging from small and localized to large and extending into the chest and axilla (armpit).

Other symptoms that may accompany hygroma colli include:

  • Difficulty breathing, especially when the swelling is large
  • Hoarseness or difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue


The diagnosis of hygroma colli is typically made based on physical examination and imaging studies. The healthcare provider will assess the swelling’s size, location, and consistency. Imaging tests, such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can help confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the swelling.


The treatment of hygroma colli depends on the size and severity of the swelling. In some cases, observation may be sufficient if the swelling is small and not causing any symptoms.

For larger swellings or those causing symptoms, treatment options include:

  • Aspiration: Using a needle to drain the fluid from the cyst
  • Sclerotherapy: Injecting a solution into the cyst to shrink it
  • Surgery: Removing the cyst surgically if other treatments are not effective


The prognosis for hygroma colli is generally good. With appropriate treatment, most children with hygroma colli can lead normal lives. However, larger swellings or those involving the airway or other vital structures may require more extensive treatment and may carry a higher risk of complications.


Potential complications of hygroma colli include:

  • Infection of the swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Airway obstruction
  • Damage to nearby structures, such as nerves or blood vessels
  • Recurrence of the swelling


As the exact cause of hygroma colli is unknown, there is no definitive way to prevent it. However, genetic counseling may be recommended for families with a history of the condition.


Hygroma colli is a relatively rare benign swelling that occurs in the neck region. It is typically seen in infants and young children and may cause various symptoms depending on its size and location. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, most individuals with hygroma colli can achieve a positive outcome.

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