What is a thyroglossal duct cyst?
A cyst (say: SIST) is a sac or pouch that is filled with liquid or semi-solid material. A thyroglossal (say: THIGH-row-GLOSS-all) duct cyst is found about halfway down the front of the neck. It feels like a firm lump that moves upward when your child swallows.
Sometimes the cyst can become enlarged and infected. This causes pain and tenderness. It can also lead to problems swallowing and breathing. Before this happens, your child needs to have the thyroglossal duct cyst removed.
Your child will need surgery (an operation) to take out the cyst. An otolaryngologist/head and neck surgeon will do the operation. An otolaryngologist (say: OH-toe-LAR-ing-GOLL-oh-jist) is a doctor who specializes in problems with the ears, nose, and throat.
This page explains what happens during the operation and how to care for your child after the operation. Use this information to explain to your child what will happen, using words they can understand.
Important phone numbers
My child’s otolaryngologist is:
The doctor’s phone number is:
The otolaryngology clinic nurse’s phone number is:
Before the operation
Several hours before the operation, your child will need to stop eating and drinking. The doctor or nurse will tell you when your child must stop eating and drinking.
Write this information down here:
The date and time of the operation:
When your child must stop eating:
When your child must stop drinking clear fluids:
Other things to remember:
What happens during the operation
Before the operation starts, your child will have a special “sleep medicine” called a general anaesthetic. This means your child will sleep through the operation and will not feel any pain.
When your child is asleep, the doctor will make a small cut (incision) in your child’s neck and take out the cyst. The doctor may also put a small tube called a drain in the incision. This lets extra fluid drain out. This tube will be removed before your child goes home.
Then the doctor will close the cut with stitches. The stitches will be covered with thin, white strips called steri-strips.
The operation takes about 2 hours.
You can see your child as soon as they are awake
After the operation, we will take your child to the recovery room, also called the Post-Anesthetic Care Unit (PACU). This is where your child will wake up. Your child will stay in the recovery room for about 1 hour.
You will be able to see your child as soon as they are fully awake. A volunteer from the Surgical Waiting Room will bring you to see your child.
Your child will need to stay in hospital
Every child's cyst is different. Some are easier to remove than others. Your child will be in the hospital for 1 to 3 days after the operation.
We will move your child to a special 6-bed room called the constant observation room. There is a nurse in this room at all times. Your child will stay in this room overnight. They may stay longer.
You are welcome to stay overnight with your child. But there is no space for a parent’s sleep cot in the constant observation room.
Managing your child’s pain after the operation
If your child feels pain, we will give them pain medicine, either through an intravenous (IV) tube in the arm or by a pill or liquid to swallow. If you think your child is in pain, tell the nurse.
Eating and drinking after the operation
Your child will probably not want to eat or drink right after the operation. We will give your child liquids through the IV tube until they can drink.
Your child will probably ask for sips of water 2 to 3 hours after the operation. After your child can drink, we will start adding their usual food.
Caring for your child at home
Each child’s operation is different, so these instructions are only a guide. Your child’s doctor may give you different instructions on how to look after your child.
Looking after the incision
- Your child may have a gauze bandage over the area where the drain was removed. When there is no more drainage from this site, you can take off the gauze. This is usually about 1 day after your child comes home from hospital.
- Your child can have a tub bath in a small amount of water.
- Do not get the incision or steri-strips wet. You can wash around them with a wet cloth.
- Do not wash your child’s hair until the steri-strips and stitches have been removed.
If your doctor or nurse gave you other instructions, write them here:
Eating and drinking
Your child should drink plenty of fluids. They can eat their usual food.
The doctor may prescribe medicine for your child. If your child needs a prescription, the nurse will give it to you when your child is discharged.
Write any specific instructions here:
Managing your child’s pain
Follow these instructions when your child goes home after the procedure.
You may give your child medicine for pain.
You may receive a prescription for pain medication before you leave the hospital. Follow the dosage instructions give to you by the pharmacist. Although these prescription pain medications can be beneficial, they are also potentially very dangerous if not used properly.
When using these medications, if you notice any changes in either breathing or level of drowsiness that concern you, stop the medication and seek medical attention. If your child is unresponsive, call 911 immediately.
Do not give your child over-the-counter medicine that may have a sedative effect (makes people sleepy) while giving the prescription for pain medicine. Examples of these medicines are decongestants and antihistamines. Discuss these medications with your pharmacist.
You may give your child acetaminophen (such as Tylenol or Tempra) if he has pain. Give the dose printed on the bottle for your child's age. Do not give your child ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, or Midol) or ASA (Aspirin) for 2 weeks after the surgery. These medications could increase your child's risk of bleeding after the operation. Check with the nurse or doctor first before giving these medicines to your child.
Write any other instructions here:
Your child’s doctor will tell you when your child can be active again after the operation.
Your child should have only quiet activity for 1 week. This means no straining, heavy lifting, swimming, or contact sports. Check with your child’s doctor.
Write any specific instructions here:
Going back to school or day care
Your child can go back to school or day care when the doctor says it is okay. This is usually 1 week after the operation.
Write any specific instructions here:
Your child will need a follow-up appointment
Your child will need to come back to the hospital to see the doctor after the operation.
Write the date and time of your child’s follow-up appointment here:
During this follow-up visit the doctor will check your child’s incision to make sure it is healing well. The doctor will also remove your child’s stitches and steri-strips.
When to call the doctor
Call your otolaryngologist, the otolaryngology clinic nurse, or your family doctor right away if your child has any of these signs after going home:
- fever of 38.5°C (100°F) or higher
- red or swollen incision
- fluid leaking from the incision
- pain that gets worse
- vomiting (throwing up) that does not stop
If your child has trouble swallowing or trouble breathing, or if you are worried, do not wait. Take your child to the closest emergency department right away.
- A thyroglossal duct cyst feels like a lump at the front of your child’s neck. Sometimes it can become enlarged and infected, or cause problems breathing or swallowing.
- Your child will need an operation to take out the cyst. Your child may need to stay in hospital for a few days.
- If your child has pain after the operation, they can take acetaminophen.
- Call the doctor right away if your child has a fever, a red or swollen incision, fluid leaking from the incision, pain that gets worse, or vomiting that does not stop.