COVID-19 Update:Learn more about how we are protecting our patients, families and staff, as well as other important facts about COVID-19.
Pediatric Branchial Cleft Abnormalities
Key points about a branchial cleft abnormality in children
- A branchial cleft abnormality is a cluster of abnormally formed tissue in the neck.
- A branchial cleft abnormality is a birth defect. It happens when the neck tissue doesn't form as it should during the early stages of an embryo’s development.
- This condition is diagnosed by a physical exam. Diagnostic tests include ultrasound and CT scans.
- Branchial cleft abnormalities are often small. But they can become large enough to cause trouble swallowing and breathing. Repeated infections are common.
- Treatment may include antibiotics for infections and surgery to remove the tissue.
A branchial cleft abnormality is a cluster of abnormally formed tissue in the neck. Branchial cleft abnormalities may form:
- Cysts or sinuses. These are pockets full of fluid.
- Fistulas. These are passages that drain to an opening in the skin surface.
Branchial cleft abnormalities are often found in front of the large muscles on either side of the neck.
This health problem can cause local infections that keep coming back. This may happen when your child has another infection, such as a cold, cough or sore throat.
A branchial cleft abnormality is a birth defect. It happens when the tissue in the neck does not form as it should during the early stages of an embryo’s development.
These are the most common symptoms of a branchial cleft abnormality:
- Small lump or mass on one side of the neck that is often painless
- Small opening in the skin on the side of the neck that drains mucus or fluid
- Redness, warmth, swelling, pain and drainage if there is an infection
The symptoms of a branchial cleft abnormality can seem like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees their health care provider for a diagnosis.
This health problem may be seen at birth. Or it may be noticed when your child is older.
To diagnose the problem, your child’s health care provider will ask you questions about your child’s health history and current symptoms. They will examine your child, paying close attention to his or her neck. A branchial cleft abnormality may not be noticed unless it becomes infected and is painful.
Diagnostic tests may include:
- Ultrasound. Sound waves are used to look at the area.
- CT scan. X-rays and a computer are used to make detailed images of the body. CT scans help to find the exact location of the abnormality and how large it is. Sometimes dye may also be used during the scan to get even more detailed information.
- Biopsy. For this test, tissue samples are removed from the body to be looked at under a microscope. This may be done to check for other conditions.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
A branchial cleft abnormality will not go away without treatment. Treatment may include:
- Antibiotic medicine if your child has an infection. In some children, the healthcare provider may need to cut into and drain the area.
- Surgery to remove the tissue. This may be advised to prevent repeated infections.
Branchial cleft abnormalities are often small. But they can become large enough to cause trouble swallowing and breathing. Repeated infections are common.
Learn about treatment
Ear, Nose and Throat Treatment at Children's National Hospital
Our team of pediatric ear, nose and throat specialists combines clinical excellence in a compassionate, child-friendly environment. Discover more about the treatments we offer.
Help Kids and Make a Difference
Invest in future cures for some of life's most devastating diseases. Give today to help more children grow up stronger.
Our team of pediatric plastic surgeons have dedicated their careers to plastic surgery procedures for babies, children and teens.
Our pediatric otolaryngology experts diagnose and treat a wide range of pediatric ear, nose and throat disorders.