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Thyroglossal Duct Cyst

What is a thyroglossal duct cyst?

A thyroglossal duct cyst is a neck mass or lump that develops from cells and tissues remaining after the formation of the thyroid gland during embryonic development. It is most commonly diagnosed in preschool-aged children or during mid-adolescence, and often appears after an upper respiratory infection when it enlarges and becomes painful.

What causes a thyroglossal duct cyst?

A thyroglossal duct cyst is a congenital (present from birth) defect. When the thyroid gland forms during embryonic development, it begins at the base of the tongue and moves down the neck through a canal called the thyroglossal duct. This duct normally disappears once the thyroid reaches its final position in the neck. Sometimes, portions of the duct remain leaving cavities or pockets called cysts. These cysts can fill with fluid or mucus, and may enlarge if they become infected. Very enlarged cysts can cause difficulty swallowing or obstruct breathing passages.

What are the symptoms of a thyroglossal duct cyst?

The following are the most common symptoms of a thyroglossal duct cyst. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of a thyroglossal duct cyst may resemble other neck masses or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is a thyroglossal duct cyst diagnosed?

Generally, diagnosis is made by physical examination. The mass typically moves upward when the tongue is extended and with swallowing since the thyroglossal duct often connects at the base of the tongue. It is important to determine if the thyroglossal duct cyst contains thyroid tissues. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for a thyroglossal duct cyst may include the following:

Treatment of a thyroglossal duct cyst:

Specific treatment of a thyroglossal duct cyst will be determined by your child's physician based on:

Treatment may include:

A thyroglossal duct cyst has a small chance of regrowing if small portions of the tissues remain after surgery. Infection of the cyst prior to surgery can make the removal more difficult and increase the chance for regrowth. Always consult your child's physician for more information.

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