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Branchiomas are also called branchial cleft cysts. They’re noncancerous growths that usually form under the skin on the side of your neck. They may be located as high as your jawline or as low as your collarbone. These oval-shaped masses are slightly moveable and begin developing in utero.
Surgery can be done to remove a branchioma after birth. The goal is to prevent infection or further growth.
You may have a branchioma if you have an olive or egg-sized growth under the skin on the side of your neck, a moveable mass under your skin, or pain in the area containing the growth.
Most of the time, the condition causes no pain. However, if the cyst becomes infected or swollen, the area can become extremely painful.
In some cases, your cyst may begin to drain clear fluid from an opening on the lower side of your neck. If the fluid doesn’t leak and begins to accumulate, it can swell.
There are small grooves in your neck that appear during early fetal development. These grooves are known as branchial clefts. Normally, they disappear over time. If they don’t disappear, a thin tubular mass of tissue forms under the skin of your neck. This creates a branchioma.
This is a condition that begins in the womb. Therefore, branchiomas are most commonly seen in young children.
Your doctor may feel a lump under the skin of your neck during a physical examination. They’ll order more tests to confirm a diagnosis.
One way to diagnose a branchioma is by using ultrasound imaging. During this procedure, your doctor will hold a small device called a transducer against your neck. This device uses sound waves to make an image of the area under your skin. These images can help your doctor determine if the lump is a fluid-filled branchioma or a solid tumor.
Most of the time, branchiomas are surgically removed. You’ll be given anesthesia for the procedure. You’ll also be asked to fast for at least eight hours before your operation begins. The surgery lasts from one to two hours. When it’s over, the opening created to remove your cyst will be stitched closed.
After your surgery, you should have someone else drive you home, follow up with your doctor, and use pain medication for pain relief.
If you have any of the following symptoms after your surgery, report them to your doctor:
If your cyst or surgical site becomes infected, you may be treated with antibiotics. Surgery may also be done to drain the infection.
Your outlook is good if your branchioma is removed. The scar left by the surgery will fade with time.
Without removal, your branchioma could become infected. This infection could spread to other areas of your body surrounding the cyst. A large branchioma may also make it difficult for you to turn your head fully to the side. The best way to reduce the likelihood of these complications is to have your branchioma removed.
Written by: April Kahn
Medically reviewed on: Feb 29, 2016: Steve Kim, MD
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