• Vol. 34 No. 4, 335–338
  • 15 May 2005

First Branchial Cleft Anomalies have Relevance in Otology and More



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Introduction: First branchial cleft anomalies account for less than 8% of all branchial abnormalities. Their rarity and diverse presentations have frequently led to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment. In a trend towards specialisation/subspecialisation, first branchial cleft duplication anomalies, with their varied clinical manifestations, may possibly present to an Otology, Head and Neck Surgery, Paediatric Otolaryngology, Maxillofacial or even a General Paediatric and General Surgery practice. There is a need to highlight the clinical features which can aid in accurate diagnosis. Clinical Picture, Treatment and Outcome: A case of an adult with Work Type 2 first branchial cleft duplication anomaly presenting as a collaural fistula is described. It first presented as a recurrent upper neck abscess in childhood. The diagnosis had previously been missed although the patient was able to clearly establish a correlation between digging of the ipsilateral ear and precipitation of the abscess. Instead of an epidermal web, a myringeal lesion in the form of a fibrous band-like was present. The lesion was completely excised with no further recurrence. Conclusion: This case highlights useful diagnostic features both from the history and physical examination. The specialist/subspecialist must be aware of this condition and be mindful of its possible cross specialty/subspecialty symptoms and signs. Together with a good understanding of the regional embryology and anatomy, the lesion can be diagnosed early at initial presentation with the potential for best treatment outcomes.

The external ear canal is a derivative of the first branchial cleft. Anomalies of the first branchial cleft, therefore, often involve external ear canal structures which are normally managed in an Otology practice. However, in duplication anomalies, clinical features are varied and may include those seen in a typical Head and Neck Surgery, Paediatric Otolaryngology, Maxillofacial or even a General Paediatric and General Surgery practice. Because of its rarity and diverse cross specialty/subspecialty clinical manifestations, the condition is often overlooked and mismanaged, which can result in dire consequences. This paper reports a case to highlight specific diagnostic clinical features and discusses the significance of this condition in Otolaryngology.

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