KidsMD Health Topics

Lymphatic Malformation

  • A lymphatic malformation (LM) is a sponge-like collection of abnormal growths that contain clear fluid.

    • probably caused by a developmental error in the womb
    • no known food, medication, or activity during pregnancy can cause an LM
    • lymphedema (swelling of a limb) is also a form of LM

    Research at Boston Children's Hospital

    The Vascular Anomalies Center at Boston Children's conducts research that may lead to the development of new, more effective therapies and perhaps ultimately result in ways to prevent these anomalies.

    Contact Us

    Vascular Anomalies Center

    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Fegan Building, 3rd Floor
    Boston, MA 02115 

  • What are some conditions related to lymphatic malformation (LMs)?

    • Gorham syndrome (Gorham-Stout syndrome) - A type of LM that occurs in bones and partially destroys them
    • Milroy disease - an inherited lymphedema (generalized swelling typically occurring in the legs) that is present at birth
    • Lymphangioma circumscriptum - an abnormal collection of tiny lymphatic cysts. It’s often more widespread than it first appears
    • Angiokeratoma - a group of skin lesions that are raised, dark red to black in color, and about 1 to 10 mm in size. Because these lesions often bleed spontaneously or following abrasion, treatment may be required to control bleeding.

    What do lymphatic malformations look like?

    • They typically lie just beneath the skin in the neck and the armpit, although can also occur in other organs and in bones.
    • LMs appear as a swelling and sometimes more extensive enlargement of soft tissues and bones.
    • An LM in the skin looks like tiny clear bubbles that often become dark red due to bleeding.
    • LMs can cause the enlargement of any part of the body, including the lip, cheek, ear, tongue, limb, finger or toe.

    What are the possible complications of LMs?

    • The two major complications are infection and bleeding.
    • A long-term complication is overgrowth of involved tissues and bones.

    Can LMs be prevented?

    No, but complications can be diminished.

    • LM often swells when the patient has a viral or bacterial infection anywhere in the body.
    • Infection in a LM of the head/neck region is less likely if your child brushes his teeth regularly and gets frequent cleanings by a dental hygienist.
    • Treat your child promptly for middle-ear infections.
  • How are LMs diagnosed?

    Usually your child’s medical history and physical examination will be enough for your doctor to make the diagnosis. Sometimes, however, an LM can be confused with a venous anomaly.

    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with contrast enhancement is used to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the lymphatic abnormality.
    • Before birth, LMs can often be detected by an ultrasound.
  • How are LMs treated?

    If your child’s LM becomes repeatedly infected or is causing trouble in any other way, your doctor may recommend one of the following treatments:

    • Sclerotherapy - injection of medicine that will destroy the LM

    • Surgery - removal of the LM

  • Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

    fax: 617-730-0623


    Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

    Boston Children's Hospital at Waltham
    9 Hope Avenue
    Waltham, MA 02453

    fax: 781-216-1115


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