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Rady Children's Specialists

Lymphatic malformation

Lesions_Lymphatic malformation 1

Lymphatic malformation

Lymphatic malformations, as the name suggests, are made up of lymphatic vessels. These malformations are separated into two groups, macrocystic and microcystic, depending on the size of the vessels.

A macrocystic lymphatic malformation, also known as cystic hygroma or cavernous lymphangioma, is found to have large lymphatic channels. These are less common than their microcystic counterparts. Because of the cystic nature of these lesions, acute hemorrhage may occur within the lesion causing tenderness and a purple discoloration to the lesion. They are typically found on the upper half of the body and may be associated with chromosomal and other genetic abnormalities. A thorough physical examination, imaging, and a multidisciplinary team are needed to provide the best care for patients with this type of malformation.

A microcystic lymphatic malformation, the more common form of lymphatic malformations, can be found anywhere on the skin or mucous membranes. The appearance is often akin to “frog sprawn,” since these malformations are often seen as a cluster of small, clear blisters. Bleeding into these lesions may cause intermittent swelling and pain, along with a purplish discoloration. These malformations often present during infancy and can generally be treated with surgical excision.