Magnetic resonance imaging of pediatric head and neck cystic hygromas

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 1991 Sep;100(9 Pt 1):737-42. doi: 10.1177/000348949110000910.


We retrospectively reviewed the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings of eight pathologically proved cystic hygromas in seven pediatric patients. All lesions showed multiple cysts, best depicted on T2-weighted images (T2WI). Six of the eight lesions had well-defined borders. Fluid-fluid levels were visualized in seven of eight lesions, with very high signal intensity of the upper fluid on T2WI. On T1-weighted images, all lesions showed a mean signal intensity greater than that of muscle (1.6 times) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF; 4.04 times) and less than that of fat (0.5 times). On T2WI, the mean signal intensity was greater than that of CSF (1.8 times), muscle (9.45 times), and fat (2.54 times). Chemical analysis of the cystic fluid from one lesion showed high lipid content and hemorrhage, consistent with the preoperative and in vitro MRI findings on the fluid from the same patient. Lesion anatomic distribution showed frequent posterior triangle involvement; however, the epicenter of 75% of the lesions was outside the posterior triangle. Only one lesion had involvement limited to the posterior triangle. There was equal distribution of right and left sides and no midline lesion. Seven lesions displaced the sternocleidomastoid muscle laterally, whereas one displaced it posteriorly, with no evidence of muscle infiltration. Only those patients with submucosal involvement (two of seven) had respiratory symptoms. Gadolinium provided no additional information with regard to diagnosis or extent of involvement. Our experience indicates that MRI is useful in the diagnosis and treatment planning of cystic hygromas.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lymphangioma / diagnosis*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies