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Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2013 Mar;270(4):1501-6. doi: 10.1007/s00405-012-2200-7. Epub 2012 Oct 7.

Diagnosis and treatment of branchial cleft anomalies in UKMMC: a 10-year retrospective study.

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Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, National University of Malaysia Medical Centre, Jalan Yaacob Latif, Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras, 56000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Branchial cleft anomalies result from abnormal persistence of branchial apparatus, which is located at the lateral part of the neck. These occur due to failure of obliteration of the branchial apparatus during embryonic development. Differential diagnoses of lateral neck mass are salivary gland or neurogenic neoplasms, paragangliomas, adenopathies, cystic hygroma or cystic metastasis from squamous cell carcinoma or thyroid papillary carcinoma. Clinically, a branchial cyst is smooth, round, fluctuant and non-tender, and usually occurs over the upper part of the neck, anterior to the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Sometimes, it may present as infected cyst (or abscess), a sinus or fistula. Surgical excision is the definitive treatment for branchial anomalies. The objective of the work was to study the demographic data, clinical presentation, definite diagnostic workup and treatment of patients diagnosed with branchial anomalies. This is a retrospective study of 26 patients who were diagnosed with branchial anomalies (branchial cyst and fistula), of which only 12 patients had data available between July 1999 and June 2009 at the Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre. Twelve cases of branchial anomalies were seen, in which 10 patients had second branchial cyst anomalies, 1 had third branchial fistula and 1 had bilateral branchial lesion. There were seven females and five males. The age of the patients varied over a wide range (4-44 years), but the majority of the patients were in their second and third decade of life. All branchial anomalies occurred at the classical site; eight patients had left-sided neck lesion. Correct clinical diagnosis was made only in five patients (41.6 %). All patients underwent surgical excision with no reported recurrence. Branchial anomalies are frequently forgotten in the differential diagnosis of lateral neck swelling. Diagnosis is usually delayed, leading to improper treatment. The diagnosis of patients who present with lateral neck cystic swelling with or without episodes of recurrent neck abscess should be considered with a high suspicion for branchial anomalies. FNA cytology is a good investigative tool in reaching toward a diagnosis of branchial lesion, with the concurrent assistance of radiological modalities. Surgical excision is the gold standard treatment of lesions of branchial anomalies.

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