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Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2009 Sep;73(9):1297-301. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2009.06.006. Epub 2009 Jul 7.

Cervicofacial nontuberculous mycobacterium lymphadenitis in children: is surgery always necessary?

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Department of Otolaryngology, St. George's Hospital, Blackshaw Road, London, United Kingdom.



The optimal treatment of cervicofacial nontuberculous mycobacterium lymphadenitis (CFNTB) in children is yet to be established. There is a general consensus that surgical excision results in a definitive resolution of the disease. The main aim of surgery is to remove affected nodes so that they do not discharge through the skin. Recently there are some investigators who are reporting successful antibiotic treatment and advocating medical therapy as the first line treatment.


16 children consecutively presenting to otolaryngology in a tertiary referral centre over an 8-year period with CFNTB. Inclusion criteria were chronic cervicofacial lymphadenitis with either: (1) a culture positive for atypical mycobacteria (from either a lymph node or fine needle aspirate (FNA) specimen); or (2) acid-fast bacilli identified (from either a lymph node or FNA specimen); or (3) post excision histological findings consistent with mycobacterial infection (i.e. non-caseating granulomas) in the absence of other clinical features suggestive of other granulomatous conditions. Lesions with superficial skin change were treated preferentially with surgery. Children presenting with lymph nodes contained deep to sternocleidmastoid were assessed with FNA cytological and microbiological analysis and MRI or CT, and treated preferentially with antibiotics or watchful waiting.


4 children (2 culture positive, 2 with acid-fast bacilli on needle aspirate) presented with lymphadenopathy deep to sternocleidmastoid and were managed non-surgically. All 4 resolved without cutaneous involvement. 11 children with a clinical presentation of CFNTB underwent complete excision of all involved nodes for superficial lesions (6 were culture positive, and all had granulomatous histology). None recurred. 1 patient presented late with a mature, discharging parotid sinus, which was managed with watchful waiting as the lesion was clinically close to natural resolution.


Depth at presentation may help decide which patients with CFNTB can be treated non-surgically without cutaneous sequelae. We propose that a watch and wait management is an option for deep nodes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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