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Congenital neck masses

Last updated: December 2, 2020

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Congenital neck masses are developmental anomalies that can manifest either at birth or later in life, usually following a respiratory infection. The most common congenital neck masses are thyroglossal duct cysts, branchial cleft cysts, and cystic hygromas. These malformations manifest as painless neck masses that, as they grow, can cause dysphagia, respiratory distress, and neck pain by compressing surrounding structures. The location of the mass depends on the embryological structure the cyst arises from. Diagnosis is based on clinical findings and imaging results (ultrasound, CT, MRI), which also help in surgical planning. Treatment consists of complete surgical resection to prevent recurrence and complications such as infection or abscess formation.

Thyroglossal duct cysts manifest as a painless, firm, midline neck mass that moves with swallowing and tongue movement.

Branchial cleft cysts manifest as a painless, firm neck mass lateral to the midline.

The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.

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