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Dermoid tumors are inclusion cysts. This means they are formed by the implantation of epithelial tissue into another structure. They most frequently occur on the face, inside the skull, on the lower back, and in the ovaries. More rarely they can arise in the brain, nasal sinuses, and spinal cord.
Dermoid cysts are bizarre in that they contain developmentally mature skin, complete with sweat glands, hair follicles, sometimes luxuriant clumps of long hair, and often pockets of sebum, blood, fat, bone and cartilage, nails and teeth, and thyroid tissue.
Because they contain mature tissue, these cysts are almost always benign (noncancerous). Usually solitary, they expand slowly over many years due to the central accumulation of epithelial debris and glandular secretions. These cysts are not tender unless they rupture.
Epidermoid tumors are similar in structure and origin to dermoids and the two are often grouped together. Epidermoids are lined with stratified squamous epithelium (skin) as dermoids are, but do not contain the additional skin appendages. Epidermoid cysts are less likely to rupture.
Dermoid and epidermoid tumor symptoms are associated with the location of the tumor and the effect of its mass on adjacent tissues. The symptoms can include pain and vision problems.
At UPMC, the preferred surgical treatment for dermoid and epidermoid tumors in the base of the skull or upper spine is the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This innovative, minimally invasive technique uses the nose and nasal cavities as natural corridors to access hard-to-reach or previously inoperable tumors. Benefits of EEA include:
For cysts within the substance of the brain, the preferred surgical treatment at UPMC is Neuroendoport® surgery. Neuroendoport surgery gives surgeons access to dermoid and epidermoid tumors through a dime-size channel. This minimally invasive approach offers benefits such as:
To diagnose a dermoid or epidermoid tumor, your doctor will:
Symptoms depend on the tumor's location and whether it is intact or has ruptured. Common symptoms include pain and vision problems.
Imaging studies, such as MRI or CT scans, will help the doctor locate the dermoid or epidermoid tumor.
An MRI scan does a better job at finding intracranial or intramedullary cysts because it depicts their location and involvement of other structures.
MRIs also are more sensitive in determining if the cyst has ruptured.
Surgery to remove the cysts is the recommended treatment.
During surgery, our experts take extreme care to prevent the fatty content of the cyst from spreading to the surrounding tissues or anatomic structures, especially if the cyst is infected with bacteria. The spread of these contents can cause foreign body reactions and severe complications.
The type of surgery used to remove dermoid and epidermoid tumors depends upon their location.
Dermoid and epidermoid cysts of the skull base may be approached directly using the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This state-of-the-art, minimally invasive approach allows surgeons to access the tumor through the natural corridor of the nose, without making an open incision. Surgeons then remove the cyst through the nose and nasal cavities.
EEA offers the benefits of no incisions to heal, no disfigurement, and a faster recovery time.
Neuroendoport® surgery offers a minimally invasive option for tumors within the ventricles (fluid spaces) or deep-seated tumors within the substance of the brain. A narrow tube or port allows surgeons to access these tumors through a tiny incision in the scalp, in contrast to traditional brain surgery.
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