A dermoid cyst is a collection of tissue under the skin, usually present at birth, and can grow in size over time. It occurs due to improper growth of specialized cells, including those that develop into hair, teeth, skin, and bone. A dermoid cyst most commonly occurs on the scalp, neck or face, but can be present anywhere on the body. Dermoid cysts are typically benign and not cancerous.


A dermoid cyst appears as a sac-like growth under the skin, typically as a small, firm and painless lump that can be easily moved under the skin. It may appear yellow in color and have a small pit or opening at the center, possibly containing a hair or leakage of fluids from the cyst. Each child will experience dermoid cysts differently. Some may have other neck masses or deformities, and others may experience impairments of:

  • Sight
  • Speech
  • Feeding
  • Breathing, depending on the size and location of the cyst


Diagnosis occurs at birth through a physical midline exam, and identification of the cyst’s size and location will determine the treatment plan. Cysts that are located within nasal or oral cavities may require X-rays, CT scans and/or MRIs for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.


Treatment plans take into consideration your child’s age and tolerance for certain medications, as well as the size and location of the cyst. Typically, dermoid cysts grow slowly over time, and treatment to remove cysts involves surgical procedures that can start at six months of age. A cyst is removed through a simple surgical incision in the skin. Drainage of the cyst with a needle alone will not remove the cyst, as its membrane remains intact, allowing it to regrow.

Cysts that are located in the skull or interact with deeper tissues are treated by both a plastic surgeon and neurosurgeon. Typically, this surgery is performed in under an hour and recovery can be done at home. Our team of specialists at the North Carolina Cleft and Craniofacial Center has years of experience diagnosing and treating dermoid cysts. Working as an interdisciplinary team, they can provide comprehensive, holistic care from a single convenient location.