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Bartholin gland masses: Diagnosis and management

Author
Katherine T Chen, MD, MPH
Section Editors
Robert L Barbieri, MD
Barbara Goff, MD
Deputy Editor
Sandy J Falk, MD, FACOG

INTRODUCTION

The Bartholin glands (also called the greater vestibular glands) are located in the vulva (figure 1), and blockage of the Bartholin ducts is a common etiology of a vulvar mass. The most common Bartholin masses are cysts or abscesses; Bartholin benign tumors and carcinomas are rare. Symptomatic Bartholin cysts and abscesses account for 2 percent of all gynecologic visits per year [1].

This topic will focus on cysts and abscesses, but will also provide brief information on Bartholin benign tumors and carcinomas. Vulvar abscess, vulvar lesions, and vulvar cancer are discussed in detail separately. (See "Vulvar abscess" and "Vulvar lesions: Differential diagnosis based on morphology" and "Vulvar cancer: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and pathology".)

BARTHOLIN GLAND ANATOMY

The Bartholin glands (also called the greater vestibular glands (figure 2)) are the female homologue of the bulbourethral glands in the male. The Bartholin gland's main function is to secrete mucus to provide vaginal and vulvar lubrication [2].

Each Bartholin gland is approximately 0.5 cm in size and drains tiny drops of mucous into a duct 2.5 cm long. The glands are deep to the posterior aspects of the labia majora. The ducts open onto the vulvar vestibule at the four and eight o'clock positions on each side of the vaginal orifice, just below the hymenal ring (figure 1).

The Bartholin gland is composed of several epithelial types: The body is mucinous acini, the duct is predominantly transitional epithelium, and the orifice is squamous epithelium [3].

                                            

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Literature review current through: Nov 2016. | This topic last updated: Fri Dec 11 00:00:00 GMT+00:00 2015.
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