First branchial cleft fistula: a case report

Rupa Mehta, Ankit Mishra, Nitin M. Nagarkar, Vandita Singh


First branchial cleft anomalies (BCA) are a rare finding in head and neck with incidence of nearly 1 million per year which are distributed below external auditory canal, above the hyoid bone, anterior to sternocleidomastoid and posterior to submandibular triangle. First branchial cleft cysts are frequently misdiagnosed as they are rare and pose unfamiliar clinical signs and symptoms. Here we are reporting a case of surgical management of 1st branchial cleft fistula in a 5 years old male child from AIIMS, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India as it’s a rare entity. Child presented with discharge from right upper part of neck. There was a swelling in right upper lateral part of neck with an opening also in floor of right external auditory canal (EAC). Contrast enhanced computed tomography of neck showed a 4.8 cm long obliquely oriented fistulous tract opening at junction of middle and upper one third of sternocleidomastoid with opening in right EAC. Surgical excision of the fistulous tract was done with preservation of facial nerve. Histopathology examination confirmed the presence of fistula. Common clinical presentation of BCAs is pre-auricular swelling (24%), parotid swelling (36%) or cervical region swelling (41%). In our case, it was a fistulous opening that presented as discharging tract in upper neck. Management include early diagnosis, control of infection and complete excision with facial nerve preservation Surgical approach should be based on the clinical examination, imaging and clinical course; and there is a need to safely identify and preserve facial nerve in almost all cases.


Branchial cleft anomalies, Facial nerve, Branchial cleft fistula

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