Distribution of C cells in the thyroid gland with pyriform sinus fistula

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1995 Feb;112(2):268-73. doi: 10.1016/s0194-5998(95)70249-0.


A pyriform sinus fistula can cause acute thyroiditis or recurrent infection in the neck. This fistula is believed to be a remnant of the branchial apparatus, although its origin has yet to be pinpointed. The spatial distribution of C cells in the thyroid gland was mapped by immunohistologic method in four patients with a pyriform sinus fistula. The C cells were identified immunohistologically with anticalcitonin antibody. The stained calcitonin-positive cells also crossreacted with the antibodies to carcinoembryonic antigen, chromogranin A, and neuron-specific enolase. The C cells were mainly distributed near the end of the fistula, and in three patients their concentration per unit volume of thyroid tissue was found to be inversely proportional to the distance from the end of the fistulas. Comparison of distant locations of the left-sided thyroid lobe in patients and the same region in control subjects showed a similar number of C cells. Thus this limited distribution of C cells suggested that the pyriform sinus fistula was either a remnant of the ultimobranchial body, the result of disturbed migration of the C cell in the fetus, or both.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Branchial Region / embryology
  • Branchial Region / pathology
  • Calcitonin / analysis*
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / analysis
  • Cell Movement
  • Child
  • Chromogranin A
  • Chromogranins / analysis
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Female
  • Fistula / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharyngeal Diseases / pathology*
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / analysis
  • Thyroid Diseases / pathology*
  • Thyroid Gland / embryology
  • Thyroid Gland / metabolism
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology*


  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • Chromogranin A
  • Chromogranins
  • Calcitonin
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase