Cystic metastasis versus branchial cleft carcinoma: A diagnostic challenge

Russell D. Briggs, Anna M. Pou, Vicki J. Schnadig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Objectives: There is controversy regarding the existence of branchial cleft carcinomas. The objectives are to familiarize the clinician with the presentation and treatment of cystic metastases from head and neck primary sites and differentiate these from primary branchial cleft cyst carcinomas. Study Design: Retrospective case study and literature review. Methods: Published reports of branchial cleft carcinomas were reviewed in conjunction with a unique case presenting at the University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston, TX). Results: Most cases of branchial cleft carcinomas are probably cystic metastases from head and neck primary sites. Cutaneous involvement with primary branchial cleft carcinomas is rare but may occur in recurrent lesions. Conclusions: The diagnosis of a primary branchial cleft cyst carcinoma requires the fulfillment of strict criteria. Cystic metastases from head and neck primaries can mimic branchial cleft carcinomas histologically. Correct diagnosis is important so that appropriate surgical and radiotherapeutic treatment can be delivered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1010-1014
Number of pages5
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Branchial cleft cyst carcinoma
  • Branchiogenic carcinoma
  • Cystic metastasis
  • Tonsil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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