Management of first branchial anomalies in children: 20 years of experience

Nir Tsur*, Aiman Elmograbi, Lirit Levi, Thomas Shpitzer, Gideon Bachar, Roy Hod, Meirav Sokolov, Eyal Raveh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Branchial cleft anomalies (BCAs) are common pediatric head and neck lesions; however, only 1–4% involve the first branchial cleft. The rare occurrence of first BCAs, their presentation at a young age, and the possible facial nerve involvement make diagnosis and treatment challenging. Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted for children diagnosed with their first BCA between 2000 and 2020. Data on demographics, presenting symptoms, physical findings, imaging features, previous surgery, and treatment outcomes were collected and analyzed. Results: The cohort included 17 patients with a median age of 5 years at presentation. Seven (41%) had undergone previous surgical intervention before definitive surgery. Eight were classified as Work Type II anomalies, and nine as Work Type I. Sixteen patients (94%) underwent definitive surgical excision at a median age of 6.9. A parotid approach was used in 10 (62%), with dissection of the mass from the facial nerve, and a retro-auricular or end-aural approach was used in 6 (38%). Complete excision was achieved in 14/16 patients (88%). Three patients had transient facial nerve paresis postoperatively. Recurrence was noted in 3/16 patients (18%). Enhancement in imaging was positively correlated with post-operative complications (R = 0.463, P = 0.018). Conclusions: First, BCA poses a diagnostic and surgical challenge; thus, definitive surgical treatment is often delayed. The surgical approach should be tailored to the type of anomaly (Work type I or II) and possible facial nerve involvement. Risk factors for post-operative complications are a history of recurrent infections and previous surgical interventions. The presence of contrast enhancement in preoperative imaging should alert surgeons to perioperative challenges and the risk of post-operative complications. Level of evidence: 4.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
JournalPediatric Surgery International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


  • Branchial anomalies
  • Branchial cyst
  • Cleft
  • Head-and-neck
  • Pediatrics
  • Surgery


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