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2012, Volume 28, Number 1, Page(s) 080-082
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DOI: 10.5146/tjpath.2012.01103
Adult Lymphangioma - A Rare Entity: A Report of Two Cases
Mary MATHEW, Sumeet KAUR DIL
Department of Pathology, Kasturba Medical College, KARNATAKA, INDIA
Keywords: Lymphangioma, Neck masses, Adults
Abstract
Objective: Lymphangiomas are rare congenital malformations commonly seen in children. Its occurrence in adults is uncommon with very scarce reports in the literature. It mainly occurs in infants or children younger than two years of age. We report these cases to emphasize the need to consider cystic lymphangiomas in differential diagnosis of neck masses in adults.

Case Reports: We describe two cases in adults, one a 27-year-old man and the other a 59-year-old male. The former presented with recurrent neck mass for 5 years, and the latter presented with asymptomatic neck mass of a short duration. Both were not associated with any pain, discoloration, discharge or sudden increase in size.

Conclusion: The awareness of occurrence of cystic lymphangioma in adults is important for its proper management which includes complete surgical removal, to prevent recurrence.

Introduction
Lymphangioma is a benign congenital malformation seen almost exclusively in children less than two years of age. It is extremely rare in adults, with only about 100 cases reported in literature1. These are considered to be the result of sequestration of lymphatic tissue that has retained its potential for growth. The three variants which have been described are: 1) Capillary - characterized by small thin walled vascular channels;2 Cavernous - large channels with a fibrous coat; and3 Cystic- large cystic endothelial lined spaces2. Although they can occur anywhere in the body, the most common sites are in the posterior triangle of the neck (75%), axilla (20%), mediastinum (5%), groin, retroperitoneal space and pelvis3.

We report two cases of cystic lymphangioma in adults, and contrast it with those presenting in the pediatric age group.

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  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Case Presentation
  • Disscussion
  • References
  • Case Presentation
    Case 1
    A 27-year-old man presented with recurrent swelling in the nape of the neck since 5 years. The swelling was gradually progressive, and not associated with pain, discharge or sudden increase in size. He was otherwise asymptomatic. On examination, the mass was 8.0 x 8.0 cm non-tender, soft in consistency, nodular, non-fluctuant and transilluminant with well defined rounded borders. Imaging studies showed a heterogenous lesion superior to the muscle with few small cystic areas, and no calcification. A clinical diagnosis of neurilemmoma was rendered. An excision biopsy was done and the mass was sent for histopathology. The specimen consisted of a skin covered nodular mass measuring 8.0x7.0x4.0 cm with multiple cystic spaces containing clear fluid (Figure 1). Microscopic examination showed epidermis overlying dermal and subcutaneous tissue with large caliber ectatic lymphatic channels lined by endothelial cells containing intraluminal lymphocytes and surrounded by a fibrotic stroma consistent with cavernous lymphangioma (Figure 2).


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    Figure 1: Spongy mass with multiple cystic spaces.


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    Figure 2: Ectatic lymphatic channels containing lymphocytes, (H&E, x100).

    Case 2
    A 59-year-old male presented with a cystic swelling on the left side of the neck since fifteen days. The swelling was cystic, not associated with any pain, discoloration or sudden increase in size. The excised mass measured 2.5x2.0x1.0 cm and cut surface showed grey white lobulated areas with multiple cystic spaces (Figure 3). Microscopy showed dilated vascular channels lined by attenuated cells and surrounded by bundles of smooth muscles. The stroma showed focal lymphoid aggregates (Figure 4).


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    Figure 3: Lobulated grey white mass with cystic spaces.


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    Figure 4: Dilated vascular channels surrounded by bundles of smooth muscles, (H&E, x100).

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  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Case Presentation
  • Disscussion
  • References
  • Discussion
    Cystic lymphangiomas are extremely rare benign tumors occurring in adults. They occur frequently in infants or children younger than two years of age3. They may be developmental, hamartomatous or neoplastic in origin4. The most widely accepted theory about the development of cystic lymphangioma is that they arise from sequestrations of the primitive embryonic lymph sacs5. However, the etiology in the adult population is controversial. Some authors attribute adult lymphangioma to delayed proliferation of the congenital or acquired lymphoid rests following trauma or preceding respiratory infection6. The most common documented site is the neck5. In children cervical lesions can cause dysphagia and airway obstruction, however, this is rare in adults. Adults usually present with an asymptomatic, soft fluctuant, well defined mass with a capsule, but it is less defined in children7.

    The anatomic location of the lymphatic malformation plays an important role in determining the histologic type of lymphangioma. The various sites reported are intraabdominal, mediastinal, axillary, thigh with the neck being the most common1-8. Histologically, lymphangiomas are thin walled, cystic unilocular or multilocular cystic tumors lined by endothelial cells containing clear yellow fluid. A radiological diagnosis can be difficult. Extension into the oropharynx is present in 20% cases , and extension to the mediastinum is found in about 10% cases. A careful evaluation of the extension of the tumor by preoperative imaging using ultrasound, MRI or oropharyngeal endoscopy is strongly recommended, so as to ensure complete removal of the mass and prevent reccurence7. Incomplete excision is one of the leading causes of recurrence. Repeated aspiration and depomedorone injections often fail to prevent recurrence. Complete surgical excision is the preferred treatment7.

    Despite all the advanced imaging techniques, the diagnosis of adult lymphangiomas remains a challenge9. A correct diagnosis is ensured only by histopathological examination of the surgical specimen8.

    We report these cases to further emphasize the need to consider cystic lymphangioma in the differential diagnosis of neck masses in adults.

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  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Case Presentation
  • Discussion
  • References
  • References

    1) Sinha M, Jane MJ, Watson SB: An unusual case of a large cystic swelling in thigh:Cystic lymphangioma in an adult. Eur J Plast Surg 2009, 32:103-106

    2) Daver GB, Bakhshi GD, Patil AS, Shaikh AS, Mokashi NP, Mogal HD, Joshi NY: Cystic lymphangioma in an adult. Bombay Hospital Journal 2005, 47:90-93

    3) Guner A, Aydin A, Celik F: Cystic hygromas in adults: Report of two cases. Med J Bakirkoy 2006, 2:101-103

    4) Poyraz AS, Kilic D, Hatipoglu A, Ozulku M, Sar A, Bilezikci B: Cystic lymphangioma confined to the mediastinum in an adult. Jpn J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2004, 52:567-569. [ PubMed ]

    5) Gelal F, Yucel K, Tugsel E, Guney S: Axillary cystic lymphangiomas presenting in pregnancy. Turk J Med Sci 1998, 28:571-572

    6) Aneeshkumar MK, Kale S, Kabbani M, David VC: Cystic lymphangioma in adults: can trauma be the trigger? Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 2005, 262:335–337. [ PubMed ]

    7) Morley SE, Ramesar KC, Macleod DA: Cystic hygroma in an adult: a case report. JR Coll Surg Edinb 1999, 44:57-58. [ PubMed ]

    8) Kraus J, Plzak J, Bruschini R, Renne G, Andrle J, Ansarin M, Betka J: Cystic lymphangioma of the neck in adults: a report of three cases. Wien Klin Wochenschr 2008, 120:242-245. [ PubMed ]

    9) Shaffer K, Rosado-de-Christenson ML, Patz EF Jr, Young S, Farver CF: Thoracic lymphangioma in adults. CT and MR Imaging features. Am J Roentgenol 1994, 162:283-289. [ PubMed ]

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  • Discussion
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