woman's neck and collar bones
woman's neck and collar bones
woman's neck and collar bones

Branchial Cleft Cyst

What is a branchial cleft cyst?

Also, known as a cleft sinus, a branchial cleft cyst is a lump that develops in the neck or just below the collarbone. Branchial cleft cysts form during development of the embryo. They occur when tissues in the neck and collarbone area (branchial cleft) fail to develop normally. The birth defect may appear as open spaces called cleft sinuses, which may develop on one or both sides of the neck. A branchial cleft cyst may form from fluid drained from a sinus. The cyst or sinus can become infected. 


Symptoms include:

  • Small pits, lumps or skin tags at either side of the neck or just below the collarbone 

  • Fluid drainage from a pit on the neck 


Branchial cleft cysts can usually be diagnosed with a physical examination. Testing is usually not necessary.


Infected branchial cleft cysts or sinuses require antibiotic treatment. If there are persistent problems with drainage or infection, these cysts should be surgically removed. Most branchial cleft remnants require no treatment. If surgery is required, results are usually good.

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