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Branchial cleft cyst

branchial cleft cyst, branchial cleft cyst histology
A branchial cleft cyst is a cyst in the skin of the lateral part of the neck It can but does not necessarily have an opening to the skin surface called a fistula The cause is usually a developmental abnormality arising in the early prenatal period, typically failure of obliteration of the second branchial cleft, ie failure of fusion of the second and third branchial arches Less commonly, the cysts can develop from the first, third, or fourth clefts, and their location and the location of associated fistulas differs accordingly


  • 1 Symptoms
  • 2 Pathophysiology
    • 21 Pathology
  • 3 Diagnosis
    • 31 Types
  • 4 Treatment
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


Most branchial cleft cysts present as a smooth, slowly enlarging lateral neck mass that may increase in size after an upper respiratory tract infection The fistulas, when present, are asymptomatic, but may become infected1


Branchial cleft cysts are remnants of embryonic development and result from a failure of obliteration of one of the branchial clefts, which are homologous to the structures in fish that develop into gills23


The cyst wall is composed of either squamous or columnar cells with lymphoid infiltrate, often with prominent germinal centers The cyst may contain granular and keratinaceous cellular debris Cholesterol crystals may be found in the fluid extracted from a branchial cyst



Bilateral branchial cleft sinuses during surgery

Four branchial clefts also called "grooves" form during the development of a human embryo The first cleft normally develops into the external auditory canal,4 but the remaining three arches are obliterated and have no persistent structures in normal development Persistence or abnormal formation of these four clefts can all result in branchial cleft cysts which may or may not drain via sinus tracts

  • First branchial cleft cysts are rare less than 1%5 and typically originate in the angle of the mandible and extend to the external auditory canal They are often associated with the facial nerve
  • Second branchial cleft cysts account for a majority of branchial cleft cysts and can be found along the anterior border of the Sternocleidomastoid muscle If sinus tracts are present, they typically drain into the tonsillar fossa, found between the palatoglossal arch and the palatopharyngeal arch5
  • Third and fourth branchial cleft cysts are rare They are located about 2/3 of the way down the SCM anteriorly, usually lower than second branchial cleft cysts Sinus tracts, if present, ascend along the carotid sheath posteriorly to the internal carotid artery, under the glossopharyngeal nerve, and over the vagus nerve and hypoglossal nerve to open into the piriform sinus or thyrohyoid membrane5


Conservative ie no treatment, or surgical excision With surgical excision, recurrence is common, usually due to incomplete excision Often, the tracts of the cyst will pass near important structures, such as the internal jugular vein, carotid artery, or facial nerve, making complete excision impractical6

See alsoedit

  • Cutaneous columnar cyst
  • Cystic hygroma
  • Ranula
  • Thyroglossal duct cyst


  1. ^ Colman, Rebecca 2008 Toronto Notes pp OT33 
  2. ^ Hong, Chih-ho Branchial cleft cyst eMedicinecom URL: http://wwwemedicinecom/derm/topic61htm Accessed on: August 24, 2008
  3. ^ Shubin, Neil "Your Inner Fish" 2009
  4. ^ "Duke Embryology - Craniofacial Development" webdukeedu Retrieved 2016-09-08 
  5. ^ a b c "Differential diagnosis of a neck mass" wwwuptodatecom Retrieved 2016-09-08 
  6. ^ Waldhausen JH May 2006 "Branchial cleft and arch anomalies in children" Seminars in pediatric surgery 15 2: 64–9 PMID 16616308 doi:101053/jsempedsurg200602002 

External linksedit

  • Cervical Cysts, Sinuses, and other Neck Lesions
  • Pictures and Imaging of Branchial Cleft Cysts
  • Additional Images of Branchial Cleft Cysts jaw:Otocephaly
    • mouth: Macrostomia
    • Microstomia
    • lip: Macrocheilia
    • Microcheilia
    • chin: Microgenia
    • multiple/other: Hallermann–Streiff syndrome
    • Branchial cleft cyst

branchial cleft cyst, branchial cleft cyst cytology, branchial cleft cyst histology, branchial cleft cyst in adults, branchial cleft cyst neck, branchial cleft cyst radiology, branchial cleft cyst removal, branchial cleft cyst surgery, branchial cleft cyst types, branchial cleft cyst ultrasound

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Branchial cleft cyst

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