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A branchial cleft cyst is a cyst as a swelling in the upper part of neck anterior to sternocleidomastoid. It can, but does not necessarily, have an opening to the skin surface, called a fistula. The cause is usually a developmental abnormality arising in the early prenatal period, typically failure of obliteration of the second branchial cleft, i.e. failure of fusion of the second and third branchial arches. Branchial cleft cysts account for almost 20% of neck masses in children. Less commonly, the cysts can develop from the first, third, or fourth clefts, and their location and the location of associated fistulas differs accordingly.
Most branchial cleft cysts present in late childhood or early adulthood as a solitary, painless mass, which went previously unnoticed, that has now become infected (typically after an upper respiratory tract infection). Fistulas, if present, are asymptomatic until infection arises.
The diagnosis of branchial cleft cysts are typically done clinically due to their relatively consistent location in the neck, typically anterior to the sternocleidomastoid muscle. For masses presenting in adulthood, the presumption should be a malignancy until proven otherwise. Since carcinomas of the tonsil, tongue base and thyroid may all present as cystic masses of the neck. Unlike a thyroglossal duct cyst, when swallowing, the mass should not move up or down.
Conservative (i.e. no treatment), or surgical excision. With surgical excision, recurrence is common, usually due to incomplete excision. Often, the tracts of the cyst will pass near important structures, such as the internal jugular vein, carotid artery, or facial nerve, making complete excision impractical due to the high risk of complications.
Performed more than 40 surgeries including 10 revision surgeries for Branchial cyst and sinus in paediatric and adult patient.