Fourth branchial complex anomalies: A case series

Mark Shrime, Ashutosh Kacker, John Bent, Robert F. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Objective: Anomalies of the fourth branchial arch complex are exceedingly rare, with approximately forty cases reported in the literature since 1972. The authors report experience with six fourth arch anomalies. Methods: Retrospective chart review of six consecutive patients presenting to the pediatric otolaryngology service at a tertiary care center with anomalies referable to the fourth branchial arch. Results: All six patients presented within the first or second decade of life. All six had left-sided disease. Four patients presented with recurrent neck infection, one with asymptomatic cervical masses, and one with a neck mass and respiratory compromise. One patient had prior surgery presented with a recurrence. Diagnosis of fourth arch anomalies was suggested or confirmed by computed tomography and flexible laryngoscopy. Treatment was surgical in five patients; one patient is awaiting surgery. Surgical procedures included resection of the mass and endoscopic cauterization of the inner opening of the cyst. Conclusions: The presentation of a cervical mass, especially with recurrent infections and especially on the left side, in a child in the first or second decade of life heightens suspicion for an anomaly of the fourth branchial arch. Diagnosis can be difficult, but is aided by the use of flexible laryngoscopy, Computed tomography (CT) scanning and ultrasonography. Surgical resection of the cyst and cauterization of its pyriform sinus opening should be undertaken to minimize recurrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1227-1233
Number of pages7
JournalInternational journal of pediatric otorhinolaryngology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Fourth branchial complex anomalies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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