Department of ORL, Head & Neck Surgery, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark.
Cystic hygroma of the neck is a relatively rare congenital malformation usually diagnosed during the first years of infancy. Complete surgical extirpation may be impossible without sacrificing important neurovascular structures. This paper reports the long-term outcome of surgical treatment during a 35-year period. A follow-up examination of 44 patients (24 males and 20 females) treated in our departments during the last 35 years was performed. Median age at first operation was 1.5 years (0-28 years) The observation period ranged between 1 and 36 years, median 16.2 years. Indications for operation were space occupying lesion, haemorrhage, dysphagia, difficulties in pronunciation or breathing and infection or nerve lesions. Fifty percent of the patients revealed residual or recurrent hygroma at the time of follow-up. Forty-four percent suffered from impaired speech, food intake, breathing or swallowing. Thirty-six percent were cosmetically bothered, and only 11% reported reduced quality of life. A significant correlation was noted between the extension of the lesion and (i) the number of operations performed and (ii) the rate of recurrent or residual hygroma. The rate of residual or recurrent hygroma was statistically higher for the suprahyoid lesions compared with the infrahyoid lesions. The localization and extent of the lesion is related to the surgical outcome. Surgical intervention should be centralized and should be considered carefully. Neurovascular structures should not be damaged in an attempt to effect complete removal. The above-mentioned results lead to a search for a new therapeutic modality, and the authors have recently taken up the Japanese way of treating hygromas by intralesional injection of OK-432. The first two patients treated by this technique had total regression of the lesion, and the method seems to be promising as an alternative to surgery.
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