A dermoid cyst is a pocket or cavity under the skin that contains tissues normally present in the outer layers of the skin. The pocket forms a mass that is sometimes visible at birth or in early infancy but often is not seen until later years.
Dermoid cysts are usually found on the head or neck, and sometimes on the face, commonly in or near the eyebrow.
A dermoid cyst is congenital (present from birth), occurring during embryonic development when the skin layers do not properly grow together. A dermoid cyst is lined with epithelium, which is a layer of skin that constantly sheds dead cells. In the cyst, instead of shedding the cells to the outside of the body, the cyst fills up with the dead cells and the cyst gets bigger.
The following are the most common symptoms of a dermoid cyst. However, each child may experience symptoms differently.
Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of a dermoid cyst may resemble other neck masses or medical problems. Always consult your child’s physician for a diagnosis.
Dermoid cysts are diagnosed by physical examination. Generally, the mass can be easily moved beneath the skin, and is painless.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures to determine if the cyst is connected to other tissues in the head and neck may include:
At CHOP, we see a great number of patients with cysts such as the dermoid cyst. We use additional testing as needed to make an accurate assessment, then present you with treatment options based on your child’s results.
Specific treatment of a dermoid cyst will be determined by your child's physician based on:
Treatment frequently includes surgery to remove the cyst, as the cyst grows larger. If surgery is needed to treat your child’s condition, it will be done as an outpatient procedure. Aspirating the cyst with a needle, or lancing/draining it is not an option because the cyst lining needs to be removed in order for it to not grow back.
You will bring your child to the hospital or surgery center, where you will meet with a surgeon and a surgical nurse practitioner. The day’s surgery, preparation and follow up will be explained to you in detail and you will have a chance to ask any questions you have.
After all pre-surgical prep is done, your child will be put under general anesthesia and the cyst will be removed. Your child will be monitored before, during and after the procedure. Once he or she has recovered from the anesthesia, your child will return home.
Your child will return for a follow-up visit to check the incision, but typically there is no need for additional monitoring or treatment.
To make an appointment to have your child evaluated by CHOP’s Division of Pediatric General, Thoracic and Fetal Surgery, please call 215-590-2730.
Created by: Karen W. Barnaby, MSN, CRNP
Reviewed by: Peter Mattei, MD
Updated February 2012