What is a lymphatic malformation in children?

A lymphatic malformation is a lymphatic vessel that isn't formed correctly. The vessel traps the lymph fluid and causes cysts to form. Your child may have 1 or more of these cysts.

Lymphatic vessels are part of the lymphatic system. This is part of the immune system. It helps fight infection and other disease. It also helps keep the fluid balance in the body. It does this by emptying extra fluid into blood vessels. This system includes: 

  • Lymphocytes. White blood cells that fight infection and disease.
  • Lymph. White blood cells that contain fluid.
  • Lymph vessels. Thin tubes that carry lymph fluid all over the body.
  • Lymph nodes. These are bean-shaped glands. They are found in the armpit, groin, neck, chest, stomach, and other parts of the body.
  • Other organs or body tissues. For example, these are bone marrow, spleen, thymus, and tonsils. Other organs, such as the digestive tract, also contain lymphatic tissue.

Some lymphatic malformations affect nearby tissue. This causes problems and keeps the tissue from working as it should. For example, a malformation in the chest can cause breathing problems. These can be life-threatening.