Branchial Anomalies


The term branchial is derived from the Greek word “branchia” which means gills. The application of this term to the transient structures (branchial arches, clefts and pouches) that form the structures of the head and neck during the fourth to seventh weeks of gestation results from the belief that these structures are phylogenetically related to gill slits found in amphibians [1]. The term branchial cyst was first used by Ascherson in 1832 [2].

Branchial anomalies present as cysts, sinuses, fistulae or cartilaginous remnants. They are commonly thought to arise as a result of incomplete dissolution of branchial structures during embryogenesis. While the terms cleft, arch and pouch are sometimes used to describe branchial anomalies it is probably more appropriate to just use the term branchial as this better reflects that many anomalies and remnants have components derived from the branchial apparatus [3].

see also Branchial Anomaly Excision

Content in this topic is referenced in SCORE Branchial Cleft, Arch Anomalies overview

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Last updated: November 2, 2020