Characteristic imaging findings in lymphoceles of the head and neck

Bronwyn E. Hamilton, Gary M. Nesbit, Neil Gross, Peter Andersen, David Sauer, H. Ric Harnsberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. Lymphoceles are benign neck cysts that are important to differentiate from congenital, infectious, and malignant cystic neck masses because they require unique surgical treatment and follow-up. We reviewed a series of surgically proven lymphoceles to delineate the radiologic characteristics of lymphoceles that differentiate them from other cystic neck masses. MATERIALS AND METHODS. A search of radiology report impressions for the terms "lymphocele" and "lymphatic cyst" was performed on all neck CT, MRI, and sclerotherapy studies from January 2003 to December 2009 at our institution. Clinical and pathology records were searched for the same terms to identify additional cases. Medical records confirmed diagnosis. Study images were reviewed on PACS to assess cyst location and imaging characteristics. RESULTS. There were nine patients (six women and three men; age range, 22-85 years; mean age, 50.1 years) with 12 pathologically proven lymphoceles on six contrast-enhanced CT and three contrast-enhanced MRI examinations. Lymphoceles were located in the posterior cervical space in 12 of 12 and supraclavicular in 10 of 12 cases. Lymphoceles were unilocular nonseptated cysts in 12 of 12, fluid density or signal in 11 of 12, nonenhancing in 12 of 12, and lacked a cyst wall in eight of 12. CONCLUSION. Lymphoceles are rare unilocular cystic neck masses that may mimic other congenital, infectious, and malignant neck cysts. When enhanced CT or MRI shows a unilocular, nonseptated, fluid density or intensity, and nonenhancing supraclavicular cyst in the posterior cervical space, lymphocele is an important part of the differential diagnosis. Atypical features warrant fine-needle aspiration or follow-up for confirmation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1431-1435
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011


  • Lymphatic cyst
  • Lymphoceles
  • Thoracic duct cysts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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