As with other vascular malformations, lymphatic malformations are a type of vascular anomaly that involves “blood vessels.” In this case, they are derived from abnormal lymphatic channels, which are part of the vascular system much like capillaries, arteries and veins. Lymphatic channels do not carry blood but are responsible for carrying away the excess fluid that surrounds our tissues and delivering it back to the body’s circulation. They also play a role in proper immune function by passing this fluid through lymph nodes that are responsible for fighting infections. For unknown reasons, these channels can develop abnormally while in the womb just as other vascular malformations and can persist for life.
Sometimes, they can present as a subtle swelling and other times as large mass. There can be blistering of the overlying skin that can appear clear, yellowish or dark purple. If there is infection, there can be redness, swelling, pain, warmth and fevers.
The channels within the malformation may be characterized as macrocystic (large, dilated sacs) or microcystic (small, sponge-like sacs). Proper treatment of these lesions is dependent on the appearance of the malformation. Surgery is not always recommended and can result in disfigurement in some instances. Sclerotherapy, a method of injecting a medication to reduce the size of certain vascular malformations, is an effective treatment for macrocystic lymphatic malformations.
Lymphatic malformations may be referred to as “lymphangiomas” or “cystic hygromas,” which can be confusing. This often leads to misdiagnosis and mistreatment. Dr. Panossian has vast experience in the treatment of lymphatic and other vascular malformations and can properly diagnose and individualize treatment for his patients. He has also developed novel techniques to treat these lesions using a minimally invasive approach.