Surgery for Neck Masses in Children

With the exception of enlarged lymph nodes, neck masses in children rarely shrink or go away without treatment. Surgical removal is a common procedure for neck masses that are not infected.

Surgeons at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone specialize in procedures to remove a neck mass. They determine the most appropriate surgical approach based on your child’s symptoms and medical history, as well as the results of diagnostic tests.

Neck masses caused by cysts, fluid-filled sacs that may develop within neck or gland tissue, have a tendency to become infected with bacteria. They may need to be removed to prevent an infection from becoming chronic. Even if the infection is treated successfully with medication, it may return. Repeated bacterial infections may lead to more serious medical problems, such as open skin sores or a sore that develops within the neck mass.

Tumors also often require removal. A biopsy can reveal whether a tumor is noncancerous, or benign, or cancerous, also known as malignant. Your child’s doctor creates a treatment plan based on the results. If a tumor is noncancerous, our specialists recommend removing it to prevent complications, such as infection or problems with breathing or swallowing. Doctors may also remove a benign growth for cosmetic reasons.

If a mass is cancerous, our otolaryngologists—also known as ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors—partner with oncologists and other specialists to determine the most appropriate treatment option. Experts at the Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, offer family-centered care and support tailored to your child’s individual needs.


Surgery to remove a neck mass is called excision. Using general anesthesia, a surgeon makes an incision in the neck to access the neck mass, then carefully removes the tissue. Surgeons often use a CT image of a child’s neck to guide them during the procedure.

After the procedure, the surgeon closes the incision with stitches. The incision may be covered with a bandage.

Your child may be a bit drowsy for a few hours as the anesthesia wears off. Pain medication helps to relieve any discomfort during the first few days after surgery. Most children can eat and drink as usual after one or two days and feel no pain at the incision site within a week.

Your child’s doctor schedules a follow-up appointment 7 to 10 days after the procedure to ensure the incision is healing well.

Resources for Neck Masses in Children
Discover Hassenfeld
Children’s Hospital
We partner with children and families to provide the most advanced care.
Learn More