Giant congenital nevi: a 20-year experience and an algorithm for their management

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2001 Sep 1;108(3):622-36. doi: 10.1097/00006534-200109010-00004.


A variety of treatment options exists for the management of giant congenital nevi. Confusion over appropriate management is compounded because not all giant congenital nevi are pigmented, and malignant potential varies between different types. The present study sought to define factors in the presentation of giant congenital nevi that could provide an algorithm for their management, with respect to both the extent of resection and subsequent reconstructive options.A retrospective review of all patients who presented with a congenital nevus of 20 cm2 or greater since 1980 was performed, distinguishing among nevi involving the head and neck, the torso, and the extremities. Sixty-one patients with giant congenital nevi were evaluated (newborn to age 16 years), of which 60 nevi in 55 patients have been operated on. Giant congenital nevi having malignant potential were pigmented nevi (53 patients) and nevus sebaceus (four patients). Those not having malignant potential were verrucous epidermal nevi (three patients) and a woolly hair nevus (one patient). Of the 60 giant congenital nevi operated on, expanded flaps were used in 25, expanded full-thickness skin grafts were used in 10, split-thickness or nonexpanded full-thickness skin grafts were used in 13, and serial excision was used in 30. After 1989, operations tended to use multimodality treatment plans, with an increased use of expanded full-thickness grafts and immediate serial tissue expansion. The use of serial excision, particularly in the extremities, also increased after 1989. Serial excision was the treatment of choice when it could be completed in two procedures or less, which occurred in more than 80 percent of cases using serial excision alone. Expanded flaps were the most common mode of reconstruction in the head and neck region and were used in 49 percent of these procedures. Serial excision was the most common form of treatment in the extremities, used in 50 percent of procedures. Tissue expansion in the extremities was infrequently used to provide an expanded flap (8 percent of procedures), whereas it was frequently used to provide expanded full-thickness skin grafts harvested from the torso (used in 31 percent of procedures). On the basis of these data, algorithms for the extent of resection and subsequent reconstructive options for giant congenital nevi were developed. Their management should be formulated relative to pigmentation, malignant potential, and anatomic location of the respective lesions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Algorithms
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / congenital
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nevus, Pigmented / congenital*
  • Nevus, Pigmented / surgery*
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms / congenital*
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Skin Transplantation
  • Surgical Flaps