How to

Neck Mass: Swollen Lymph Node

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A neck mass is a bump or lump on the neck. Neck masses can be present from birth but
usually develop within the first five years of your child’s life. They are generally painless unless infected. There are two types of neck masses: solid
or cystic. A solid mass is a dense lump of tissue, while
a cystic mass is a sac that fills with fluid. Neck masses can be ‘central’—on the
front of the neck—or ‘lateral’—on the left or right side of the neck. A swollen lymph node is an example of a lateral,
solid neck mass.

Lymph nodes are part of the immune system
and are found all over the body. Lymph nodes vary in size, but can swell to
be large masses when fighting infection. Surgical removal of a swollen lymph node may
be necessary so your child’s doctor can take a closer look to help determine what
it is. Lymph nodes may also need to be taken out
if they become chronically infected or if the swelling is recurring. The surgery happens in an operating room. First, your child will be given “general
anesthesia,” a medication that makes your child sleep and keeps them from remembering
or feeling any pain during the operation.

After your child has fallen asleep, the surgery
begins. Your child’s surgeon will make a small cut
in the skin, along a fold in the neck to help hide any scarring that may develop. Once inside, the muscles in the neck are lifted
to reveal the swollen lymph node, then the swollen node is removed. Neighboring lymph nodes may be removed at
the same time if necessary. The wound is then closed with stitches that
are hidden under the skin and don’t need to be removed. Steri-strip bandages may be placed over the
wound while it’s healing. Lymph node removal is generally performed
as an outpatient procedure, meaning your child can go home the same day as their surgery. You will be instructed on how to care for
your child’s wound while at home. Call us at the Children’s Hospital Colorado
Department of Ear, Nose, and Throat to make an appointment with one of our providers..

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