What is a dermoid cyst?
A dermoid cyst is a painless, benign cyst that generally develops in childhood. It can contain fluid or semisolid material.
Most cysts are located right under the skin near your child’s eyebrow. However, they can also develop along their forehead, nose, scalp, or jaw. The cysts are small and firm, and most can be moved easily beneath the skin.
Dermoid cysts occur during fetal development. Sometimes, they are immediately noticeable at birth. Other times, they take a little longer to develop.
It’s important to talk with your child’s doctor immediately upon noticing the growth. They can perform follow-up tests to determine the source of the cyst, as well as provide recommendations on how to treat or manage it.
Who gets a dermoid cyst?
Dermoid cysts form on their own, during the early stages of a baby’s development in their mother’s uterus.
The cyst forms when layers of specialized cells do not grow together in the normal way. In this case, cells that were designed to be located on the outside of the body instead become trapped inside of it. This can include skin cells, sweat glands, or hair.
As the baby continues to develop, these cells collect inside of the cyst and it starts to grow.
How is a dermoid cyst diagnosed?
A doctor can perform a physical exam to diagnose a dermoid cyst.
If the dermoid cyst is in the middle of your child’s head, the doctor may order an X-ray to understand its total depth and other characteristics.
If the cyst is between your child’s eyes or on their nose, the doctor may recommend magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to further examine it. This is because there is a small chance that dermoid cysts located in these regions could connect to other tissues within the child’s face or head.
When is surgery needed?
Your child’s doctor will recommend a specific type of treatment to fit their individual needs. The most appropriate course of treatment will be based on factors, including:
- Your child’s age, medical history, and overall health
- The location of the cyst
- The extent of the cyst’s growth
- Your child’s tolerance for certain medications, therapies, or procedures
- Projections and expectations for the course of the condition
Left untreated, most dermoid cysts enlarge slowly over time. Therefore, our doctors usually recommend surgical removal upon diagnosis. Completely removing the cyst is necessary to prevent infection.
In most cases, we will recommend waiting until your child is at least six months old before undergoing surgery. There are no long-term health effects or consequences of surgically removing the cyst and doing so can restore your child’s health and appearance.
What can I expect during surgery?
Your child’s surgeon will remove the dermoid cyst through a simple incision in the skin. This technique is more thorough and effective than draining the cyst with a needle.
If the cyst is connected in any way with your child’s skull or deeper tissues within their body, the surgeon may perform the procedure in tandem with a plastic surgeon or neurosurgeon.
Preparing for the Surgery
To help your child feel more comfortable before the surgery, you are welcome to bring small, soft items such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal.
We also recommend bringing a comfortable pair of pajamas or play clothes that they can change into after the procedure is complete.
Hospital Recovery and Discharge
Most children can leave the hospital within 24 to 48 hours after their dermoid cyst surgery. Before they can go home, they must have a normal temperature and be able to eat, drink, and take pain medications orally.
Post-Surgery Care at Home
Your surgical care team will carefully discuss all of the steps that you and your child will need to take once they return home. By following these instructions, you can support your child’s well-being and ensure their complete healing.
It’s important to monitor the incision site and keep it clean to prevent any complications or infections. If your child has a small bandage over their incision, remove or change that dressing as directed by your surgical team.
Wait five days before giving your child a bath or shower. If their doctor allows, sponge baths are permissible before the five days. However, it’s important to keep the incision clean and dry for at least one week.
There are no dietary restrictions following dermoid cyst surgery. Your child is welcome to resume their normal diet as soon as they arrive home.
Your child can gradually return to their normal, pre-surgery activity level when they return home. Start slowly and focus on making sure they can comfortably get out of bed and walk around the house.
Most children are allowed to return to school within one week after going home. Unless your surgeon allows otherwise, however, they should avoid sports or physical education classes for at least three weeks. During that time, they should also avoid lifting any item that’s heavier than 10 pounds.
At first, your child might experience some degree of pain or tenderness at the site of the surgical incision. Your surgical team can write you a prescription for pain medicine, and you can also administer over-the-counter pain medications. Often, acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®) is enough to control the pain and help your child feel more comfortable as they recover.
Your surgical care team is always on hand to answer questions and address concerns about your child’s dermoid cyst surgery and post-surgical recovery.
If your child develops any of the following symptoms at home, please call your doctor immediately:
- Fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- Severe abdominal pain
- No appetite
- Redness, inflammation, or drainage at the incision site
In some cases, children can develop symptoms that mimic those of a cold or an upper respiratory infection. Call your doctor if you notice any of these problems during their recovery period: