Mature cystic ovarian teratoma

Ovarian dermoid cyst and mature cystic ovarian teratoma are terms often used interchangeably to refer to the most common ovarian neoplasm. These slow-growing tumors contain elements from multiple germ cell layers and are best assessed with ultrasound. 

Although they have very similar imaging appearances, the two have a fundamental histological difference: a dermoid is composed only of dermal and epidermal elements, whereas teratomas have mesodermal and endodermal elements. 

For the sake of simplicity, both are discussed in this article, as much of the literature combines the two entities. 

Mature cystic teratomas account for ~15% (range 10-20%) of all ovarian neoplasms. They tend to be identified in young women, typically around the age of 30 years 1 and are also the most common ovarian neoplasm in patients younger than 20 years 7.

Uncomplicated ovarian dermoid tend to be asymptomatic and are often discovered incidentally. They do, however, predispose to ovarian torsion, and may then present with acute pelvic pain. 

Mature cystic teratomas are encapsulated tumors with mature tissue or organ components. They are composed of well-differentiated derivations from at least two of the three germ cell layers (i.e. ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm). They, therefore, contain developmentally mature skin complete with hair follicles and sweat glands, sometimes luxuriant clumps of long hair, and often pockets of sebum, blood, fat (93%) 10, bone, nails, teeth, eyes, cartilage, and thyroid tissue. Typically their diameter is smaller than 10 cm, and rarely more than 15 cm. Real organoid structures (teeth, fragments of bone) may be present in ~30% of cases.

They are bilateral in 10-15% of cases 1,2.

May show calcific and tooth components with the pelvis.

Ultrasound is the preferred imaging modality. Typically an ovarian dermoid is seen as a cystic adnexal mass with some mural components. Most lesions are unilocular.

The spectrum of sonographic features includes:

  • diffusely or partially echogenic mass with posterior sound attenuation owing to sebaceous material and hair within the cyst cavity
  • mural hyperechoic Rokitansky nodule: dermoid plug
  • echogenic, shadowing calcific or dental (tooth) components
  • the presence of fluid-fluid levels 5
  • multiple thin, echogenic bands caused by the hair in the cyst cavity: the dot-dash pattern
  • color Doppler: no internal vascularity
    • internal vascularity requires further workup to exclude a malignant lesion
  • the appearance of intracystic floating balls is rarely seen but is considered characteristic 9

CT has high sensitivity in the diagnosis of cystic teratomas 6 though it is not routinely recommended for this purpose owing to its ionising radiation.

Typically CT images demonstrate fat (areas with very low Hounsfield values), fat-fluid level, calcification (sometimes dentiform), Rokitansky protuberance, and tufts of hair. The presence of most of the above tissues is diagnostic of ovarian cystic teratomas in 98% of cases 5. Whenever the size exceeds 10 cm or soft tissue plugs and cauliflower appearance with irregular borders are seen, malignant transformation should be suspected 5.

When ruptured, the characteristic hypoattenuating fatty fluid can be found as anti dependent pockets, typically below the right hemidiaphragm, a pathognomonic finding 2. The escaped cyst content also leads to a chemical peritonitis and the mesentery may be stranded and the peritoneum thickened, which may mimic peritoneal carcinomatosis 2

MR evaluation usually tends to be reserved for difficult cases but is exquisitely sensitive to fat components. Both fat suppression techniques and chemical shift artefact can be used to confirm the presence of fat. 

Enhancement is also able to identify solid invasive components, and as such can be used to accurately locally stage malignant variants. 

Mature ovarian teratomas are slow growing (1-2 mm a year) and, therefore, some advocate nonsurgical management. Larger lesions are often surgically removed. Many recommend annual follow-up for lesions <7 cm to monitor growth, beyond which a resection is advised.

Recognised complications include:

General differential imaging considerations include:

Germ cell tumours
Ultrasound - gynaecology
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Article information

rID: 1808
System: Gynaecology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Benign cystic teratoma of ovary
  • Ovarian dermoid
  • Mature ovarian teratoma
  • Ovarian dermoids
  • Mature cystic teratoma of ovary
  • Ovarian mature cystic teratoma
  • Dermoid cyst of the ovary
  • Ovarian dermoid cyst

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Cases and figures

  • Mature cystic ter...
    Figure 1: gross pathology
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  • Case 1: on abdominal radiograph
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  • Figure 2: cut specimen
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  • Dermoid
    Case 2: on CT
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  • Case 3
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  • Case 4
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  • Case 5
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  • Fairly well defin...
    Case 6: MRI T2
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  • The T1 and T2 hyp...
    Case 6: MRI T2 fat sat
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  • Case 7
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  • Case 8: containing tooth
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  • Case 9
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  • Ovarian dermoid

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    Case 10
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  • Case 11: Rokitansky nodule
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  •  Case 12
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  • Case 13
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  • Case 14
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  • Case 15: with incidental septate uterus
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  • Case 16: complicated by ovarian torsion
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  • Case 17: bilateral lesions
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  • Case 18: bilateral lesions
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  • Case 23: with rupture
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  • Case 25
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  • Ovarian dermoid
    Case 26: mimicking a ureteric calculus
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  • Case 27: with a fat fluid level
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  • Case 35: bilateral
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  • Case 36: left sided
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  • Case 37: "poké ball" sign
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  • Case 38: with multiple floating ball appearance
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  • Case 39
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  • Case 40: mature cystic ovarian teratoma
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  • Case 41
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  • Case 42
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