Symptoms and causes


Branchial cleft cysts, or branchiogenic cysts, are formed by residual branchial clefts that remain from embryonic development.


Branchial cleft cysts usually cause symptoms in older children or in adults. They are slow-growing and cause painless neck swelling.

Diagnosis and treatment


The goal is to examine the lesion in the consult office with an ultrasound or CT scan to visualise the cysts. Puncturing the cyst with a needle results in the discharge of a characteristic greenish fluid.


So long as there are no symptoms, a ‘wait-and-see’ approach is appropriate. In case of bothersome drainage or infections, the cysts may be surgically removed.

Treatment centres and specialisations

Ear, nose, and throat diseases

Latest publication date: 11/08/2021
Supervising author: Dr Vermeiren Judith