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Branchial remnants: a review of 58 cases.

Most congenital lateral cervical cysts, fistulae, and skin tags are considered to be from the branchial apparatus. This is a 13-year review of 58 patients (with 66 branchial lesions) who were operated on. There were eight simple cysts and six cysts with a fistula; 43 external fistulae with or without an internal opening, and nine skin tags. Eighty-seven percent (39/45) of patients with skin tags and external fistulae were less than 5 years of age at the time of operation. On the other hand, all eight patients with cysts but no fistula were greater than 9 years of age. Eight lesions were considered to be the first branchial remnants, and 44 lesions were suspected to be from the second branchial cleft. One external fistula with an internal communication to the pharynx at the level of thyrohyoid membrane was considered to be a third (or fourth) branchial remnant. The other branchial cyst with thyroid tissue in its wall was suggested to be a fourth branchial remnant. Pathology of the excised lesions showed columnar, squamous, or a mixed epithelium. Lymphoid aggregates were documented in 31 patients. Duration of hospital stay was short, except for four patients with first cleft defects who stayed more than five days. Three of the four recurrent cases were first branchial remnants, including one case with the first operation performed at another hospital. In view of these findings, first branchial remnants must be excised with extra care.

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