Non-tuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) infections in children commonly present as cervicofacial masses. The importance of early diagnosis is in the exclusion of infection requiring treatment, particularly tuberculosis and the rare case of malignancy. Five children with NTM presenting with salivary gland masses illustrate the value of skin testing with new tuberculins and the place of fine-needle aspiration cytology in the investigation of these infections.
Four children who were skin tested reacted specifically to one of the new tuberculins, two indicating infection with Mycobacterium malmoense, confirmed by culture, the others responding to tuberculins from M. scrofulaceum and M. avium-intracellulare, neither having a positive culture. The one case not skin tested produced M. avium-intracellulare on culture.
All five patients were managed conservatively. The place for conservative management when the facial nerve is at risk and extensive skin excision is indicated are discussed.