Common Childhood Conditions

Dermoid Cyst

What is a dermoid cyst?

Dermoid cysts are closed sacs that form in or on the skin. They are usually on the face near the eyebrow, on the scalp or on the chest over the collarbone. They may contain fluid, pus or a thick, white material similar to what is in a pimple.

These cysts sometimes extend below the skin and may penetrate the bone. Very rarely, they develop inside the body.

Dermoid cysts do not go away on their own and need to be removed because they may become infected or get bigger with time.

Dermoid cysts in children

Dermoid cysts develop during pregnancy. They occur when skin cells and things like hair, sweat glands, oil glands or fatty tissue get trapped in the skin as a baby grows in the womb.

Dermoid cysts are present at birth and are common. It can be months or years before you notice a dermoid cyst on your child because the cysts grow slowly.

Dermoid cyst symptoms are mild, and the cysts are usually painless and are not harmful to your child’s health. If they become infected, the infection must be treated and the cyst should be removed. It is easier to remove cysts and prevent scars if the cyst is removed before it gets infected.

Dermoid Cysts at Seattle Children’s

Dermoid cyst treatment involves surgery to remove the cyst. Surgeons remove dermoid cysts to prevent infection or because you or your child doesn’t like how it looks.

  • Our Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery team sees many children of all ages with these cysts and has experience removing them from wherever they occur in or on the body. They focus on how today’s treatment will affect your child as they develop and become adults. We base treatment plans on years of experience and the newest research on what works best – and most safely – for children and teens. This experience helps us easily diagnose your child’s condition and work with you to decide on the best treatment.

  • At Seattle Children’s, your family has a full team behind you, from diagnosis through treatment and follow-up. From our appointment schedulers to our pediatric nurses, our team is specially trained to work with children and their families. Our facilities and equipment also reflect this kid-friendly, family-centered approach.

    Our doctors and nurses will provide thorough instructions on how best to care for your child after surgery and are always available to answer your questions.

Symptoms of Dermoid Cysts

In most cases, the only dermoid cyst symptom is a small, painless lump under the skin. The lump may be the same color as your child’s skin, or it may be pale yellow.

Dermoid cysts usually show up:

  • Near the eyebrow
  • On the scalp
  • On the chest
  • Over the collarbone

If a dermoid cyst gets infected, it may hurt, become swollen and red or burst. The infection may cause a fever.

Diagnosing Dermoid Cysts

Our doctors diagnose a dermoid cyst with a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor will feel the lump and ask questions about it, such as when you first noticed the lump and how fast it has grown. Sometimes a child needs further tests to see how deep their cyst goes into the body and if it is connected to other tissues. These tests include:

  • CT (computed tomography) scan
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

These tests will help us decide whether your child needs surgery.

Treating Dermoid Cysts

The only treatment for a dermoid cyst is to remove it through surgery. This is usually an outpatient procedure, meaning your child can go home on the same day as the surgery. We can plan the surgery so it fits with your schedule.

Members of our Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery team will perform the surgery. Depending on where the cyst is located, plastic surgeons or neurosurgeons may be involved in the surgery.

  • We will give your child general anesthesia, a type of medicine to make them sleep, during the procedure so they don’t feel pain. Our anesthesiologists have extra training in how to give pain medicine to children to keep surgeries as safe as possible.

  • The surgeon will make a small cut (incision) in the skin over the cyst, remove the cyst and close the incision. In sensitive areas, such as the face or eyebrow, we can often hide the incision in the hairline or eyebrow. The surgery takes about 30 minutes.

  • Your child will be in the recovery room for an hour after the surgery. We will give pain medicine to keep your child comfortable.

    Before you leave the hospital, we will teach you what to give your child at home for pain and how to care for the incision by keeping it clean and dry. We will also tell you whether you need to limit your child’s participation in activities for a while.

    Your child will need to see the surgeon for a follow-up visit about 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. The surgeon will make sure the incision is healing and your child is recovering well.

Contact Us

Contact our Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery Department at 206-987-2794 for an appointment, second opinion or more information about dermoid cysts.

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