Mucocele and Ranula Differential Diagnoses

Updated: Jun 22, 2023
  • Author: Catherine M Flaitz, DDS, MS; Chief Editor: Jeff Burgess, DDS, MSD  more...
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Diagnostic Considerations

Mucoceles may mimic the following:

  • Benign or malignant salivary gland neoplasms
  • Hemangioma
  • Lymphangioma
  • Myxoid tumor [21]
  • Venous varix or venous lake
  • Soft irritation fibroma
  • Oral lymphoepithelial cyst
  • Gingival cyst in adults
  • Soft tissue abscess
  • Cysticercosis (parasitic infection)
  • Anterior lingual mucoceles (Blandin-Nuhn mucoceles) may resemble the following:
  • Pyogenic granuloma
  • Fibroepithelial polyp

Superficial mucoceles may be confused with the following:

Oral ranula may resemble the following:

  • Benign or malignant salivary gland neoplasm
  • Dermoid cyst
  • Soft tissue space abscess
  • Hemangioma
  • Lymphangioma
  • Lipoma
  • Plexiform neurofibroma
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma [24]
  • Heterotopic gastrointestinal cyst

Cervical ranula may appear similar to the following:

  • Thyroglossal duct cyst
  • Branchial cleft cyst
  • Cystic hygroma [25, 26]
  • Submandibular sialadenitis
  • Intramuscular hemangioma
  • Cystic or neoplastic thyroid disease
  • Infectious cervical lymphadenopathy (Epstein-Barr virus, cat scratch disease, tuberculosis)
  • Hematoma
  • Lipoma
  • Laryngocele
  • Dermoid cyst

A mucus retention cyst has a similar differential diagnosis as a mucocele and a ranula, depending on its location.

At least one report of a squamous cell carcinoma arising in a cervical ranula exists. [27] This finding emphasizes the need for excluding a neoplastic cause for the development of these reactive lesions.

Differential Diagnoses