Fetal Neck Masses

A fetal neck mass is a rare condition in which a large mass develops on the neck of a fetus. The mass can grow large enough that it risks blocking the airway and esophagus of the fetus. Fetal neck masses originate from one of two conditions, called lymphangiomas (or lymphatic malformation) and teratomas. Once referred to as cystic hygroma, a lymphangioma develops from the abnormal growth of lymphatic tissue and is described as an irregular grouping of blood vessels, veins, and lymphatic channels. Lymphangioma usually is not cancerous, but the condition is rare and can be difficult to treat. Teratomas, or cervical teratomas, also are rare.

Teratomas are actual tumors that form on the neck of a fetus and made up of various types of cells. While these tumors are not typically cancerous, it is possible to find small areas of cancer in a small percentage of fetuses with teratoma neck masses. Both teratoma and lymphangioma fetal neck masses can block the esophagus, resulting in the inability of the fetus to swallow. This leads to an increased intake of amniotic fluid and an increased possibility of a premature delivery. The additional risk of brain injury also exists if the fetal neck mass blocks the airway and restricts the baby's ability to breathe after birth.

Why UAB

The Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialists at the University of Alabama Birmingham Women & Infants Center are available on-site 24 hours a day to manage problems associated with high-risk pregnancies. Our physicians are experts at managing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, Rh sensitization, multiple births, premature delivery risk, and other potential complications. 

MFM specialists at the UAB have access to treatments that often are not yet available elsewhere, which can reduce the chance of a recurrent preterm birth by one-third to one-half. We are one of the nation’s most advanced MFM programs, as evidenced by being one of only 14 centers participating in the national Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network for high-risk pregnancy research. To support our research we developed Alabama’s first OB/GYN Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, which implemented the first comprehensive first-trimester screening program and the first integrated first- and second-trimester screening program for fetal abnormalities.

Patients at UAB have access to the most up-to-date care, including first-trimester diagnosis, genetic testing and counseling, and 4D-ultrasound and fetal imaging. UAB's team includes only board-certified MFM specialists as well as specialists with genetics certification. Our program also includes a personal labor nurse and three anesthesia specialists.

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Clinical Trials

UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of fetal neck masses. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information on clinical trials at clinicaltrials.gov.

View Clinical Trials