Ten years of experience with third and fourth branchial remnants
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BACKGROUND: Third and fourth branchial remnants may result in cysts and abscesses that are in close contact with the thyroid gland. These anomalies are rare and often present diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. METHODS: The charts of patients diagnosed with a branchial anomaly between July 1991 and July 2001 at the Montreal Children's Hospital were reviewed. All cases of third and fourth branchial remnants or pyriform sinus fistulae were identified. Clinical presentation, imaging, treatment, and outcome were recorded. RESULTS: Eight patients with a third or fourth branchial anomaly were identified and ranged in age from birth to 13 years. All anomalies were left sided. Presenting symptoms consisted of an asymptomatic cervical mass (n = 1), an infected mass (n = 5), neonatal respiratory distress (n = 1), and 1 incidental cyst found on magnetic resonance imaging. Ultrasonography was useful in suggesting the diagnosis in 7 cases. Barium swallow was performed in 3 patients with 2 positive results. Pharyngoscopy results showed the internal opening in 2 of 7 patients. A portion of the thyroid gland was resected in 6 patients. One patient has not yet undergone a definitive procedure. There was 1 recurrence in a patient whose pathology did not confirm a branchial remnant. CONCLUSIONS: The diagnosis and management of pyriform sinus anomalies are challenging. Ultrasound scan, computed tomography scan, barium swallow, and pharyngoscopy are all useful. The portion of thyroid involved in the fistula must be excised en bloc with the inflammatory mass, and the tract should be ligated at the level of the pharynx to minimize recurrence.