Medical Definition of Branchial cleft cyst

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Branchial cleft cyst: A cavity that is a remnant from embryologic development and is still present at birth in one side of the neck, just in front of the large angulated muscle on either side (the sternocleidomastoid muscle). The cyst may not be recognized until adolescence, when it enlarges its oval shape. Sometimes a branchial cleft cyst develops a sinus or drainage pathway to the surface of the skin, from which mucus can be expressed. Total surgical excision is the treatment of choice. Also known as branchial cyst.

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Reviewed on 12/4/2018

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