Lymphatic malformation (LM)

What is a lymphatic malformation (LM)?

Also known as lymphangiomas or cystic hygromas, lymphatic malformations occur when lymph accumulates within defective vessels. (Lymph is a fluid that carries fats and proteins back to the bloodstream and helps remove bacteria from body tissue.)

The birthmark can be formed of cysts and the mass is usually firm, and there can be small blisters on the surface. The two major forms of LM are mircocystic and macrocystic.

Most LMs, however, do not continue developing – which is a major difference between lymphatic and venous malformations.

Where do they occur?

About 75% of LMs occur in the neck and face area. The overlying skin can be healthy, or it may have tiny characteristic vesicles.

How are they diagnosed?

Most cases are clinically obvious; however an MRI scan is useful in evaluation. 


Most lymphatic malformations are easily treated with sclerotherapy and some can be treated with surgery. 

Lasers are primarily used to treat the blisters that appear on the surface of the tongue and mucosa of the mouth. 

Sclerotherapy consists of an injection of a substance into the abnormal veins is and is effective in treating venous malformations and lymphatic malformations.

Surgery can be effective in treating macrocystic lesions. With respect to microcystic lesions, recurrence rates are usually high and multiple procedures are usually necessary.

Bleomycin injections
The response rate in lymphatic malformations using Bleomycin is good. Bleomycin is administered in a number of treatment sessions. A series of injections is usually needed, (four on average), although this varies according to the size of the lesion. The time period between treatments is usually 3-4 weeks.

Gorham-Stout syndrome

This is an extremely rare disease, occurring at any age, and includes a lymphatic malformation (birthmark) with progressive osteolysis (bone destruction). The diagnosis must be based on combined clinical, radiological and histopathological findings. 

This site does not provide medical advice and is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and if you see a birthmark growing or changing significantly, see a specialist.