Thyroglossal Duct Cyst

What is a thyroglossal duct cyst?

A thyroglossal duct cyst is a mass or lump in the front part of neck that is filled with fluid. While a baby is developing in the womb, the thyroid gland begins at the base of the tongue. Before birth the thyroid gland moves in the neck to its usual position below the thyroid cartilage and above the sternum. A portion of this path in which the thyroid gland moves may fill with mucus-like fluid, creating a thyroglossal duct cyst.  

Thyroglossal duct cysts can occur at any point from the base of tongue to the lower neck. The most common location is in the midline of the upper neck just below the chin in the region of the hyoid bone.
Illustration of a thyroglossal duct cyst

What are the signs and symptoms of a thyroglossal duct cyst?

A thyroglossal duct cyst usually appears during childhood between 2 to 10 years, although it may also be diagnosed at any age from infancy through adolescence.

Often, a lump in the midline or just off the midline in the upper neck is discovered. Typically the child otherwise shows no other symptoms with no pain, swallowing complaints or breathing difficulties. Sometimes, however, when a thyroglossal duct cyst becomes infected your child may have sudden pain, tenderness, neck redness and difficulty swallowing.

What is the cause of a thyroglossal duct cyst?

A thyroglossal duct cyst is a congenital anomaly, meaning it results from an unexpected change in the womb before birth. Thyroglossal duct cysts occur in both boys and girls. They are not typically associated with any additional congenital anomalies.

How we care for thyroglossal duct cysts

The treatment of a thyroglossal duct cyst requires an operation performed by a surgeon trained in head and neck surgery. The surgeons in the Boston Children’s Hospital Department of Otolaryngology and in the Department of Surgery have this depth of expertise. They perform this surgery in a family-centered environment with pediatric anesthesiologists, nurses and assistive personnel all extensively trained and experienced in pediatric surgical care.