We present a retrospective study of 106 patients with branchial cleft and pouch anomalies who presented to the Hospital for Sick Children between 1948 and 1990. The relevant embryology of the branchial apparatus is summarized and a theoretical description of individual anomalies given.
Second branchial cleft sinuses were the most common anomalies, and the majority were managed simply, with adequate excision and a low recurrence rate. Five cases of first branchial cleft anomalies are presented, emphasizing the delay in diagnosis, the need for complete excision to prevent recurrence, and for a parotidectomy incision to protect the facial nerve from damage. The two third branchial pouch anomalies presented with a cystic neck swelling, one with recurrent infection and discharge, and the other with stridor. In both, the diagnosis was made at operation. The single fourth branchial pouch cyst was an unexpected finding in a patient with stridor.