Diagnosis and treatment of cervical branchial cleft cysts based on the material from the Department of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery, Medical University in Łódź and literature review

Pol Przegl Chir. 2012 Nov;84(11):547-50. doi: 10.2478/v10035-012-0091-3.


Cervical branchial cleft cysts are relatively common tumors of the neck that should be distinguished from an epidermoid cyst, hygroma, hemangioma, lymphangioma, lymphadenitis, and metastatic papillary carcinoma of the thyroid gland. Infected cysts might be misdiagnosed as a recurrent abscess. The aim of the study was to present current views concerning diagnosis and treatment of cervical branchial cleft cysts.

Material and methods: Data and histopathological results obtained from 49 patients (18 women and 31 men) admitted to the Department of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery, due to lateral cervical cysts during the period between 2005 and 2009 were subject to retrospective analysis.

Results: Most patients were in their third decade of life. The clinical examination showed a painless, slowly growing tumor on the lateral surface of the neck, more often on the right side, and in 30 cases with a concomitant infection. Initial diagnosis on the basis of the clinical examination, radiology and biopsy was confirmed in 48/49 cases (98%). All patients were subject to surgical treatment. During the 3 to 7 year follow-up period recurrence was not observed.

Conclusions: Initial diagnosis of a cervical branchial cleft cyst on the basis of the clinical examination should always be confirmed by means of ultrasonography. In case of suspicion of a coexisting infection, fine-needle aspiration biopsy under ultrasound control is recommended. If there is concern that the lateral neck lesion is not a branchial cyst or its dimension is large, computed tomography of the neck or magnetic resonance should be performed. Complete excision of the tumor under general anesthesia is the treatment of choice, being associated with the low risk of local postoperative complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Branchioma / diagnosis*
  • Branchioma / pathology
  • Branchioma / surgery*
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / secondary
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Epidermal Cyst / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Hemangioma / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Lymphadenitis / diagnosis
  • Lymphangioma / diagnosis
  • Lymphangioma, Cystic / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Young Adult