A review was made of the clinical records and radiographic examinations of 38 patients with neck lesions clinically suspected of being branchial cleft anomalies. The impact of computed tomography in this sometimes confusing clinical picture was assessed and CT criteria for diagnosing branchial cleft anomalies (BCAs) and differentiating them from their mimics were identified. Seventeen branchial cleft anomalies (four of the first branchial cleft and 13 of the second branchial cleft) and 21 BCA mimics were evaluated. A definitive CT diagnosis of second branchial cleft cysts based on characteristic morphology, location, and displacement of surrounding structures was possible in 80% of cases. CT was found to be the best radiographic examination in making a definitive diagnosis of BCA if a neck mass was present. CT-derived information, by providing additional preoperative data on the extent and type of neck lesion, frequently altered the course of patient management.