Recurrence of a deep neck infection: A clinical indication of an underlying congenital lesion

Annette O. Nusbaum, Peter M. Som, Michael A. Rothschild, Joel M.A. Shugar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Objective: To discuss the computed tomographic (CT) and clinical findings of those entities that may present as recurrent deep neck infections. Patients and Methods: Twelve patients with recurrent deep neck infections and CT scans were retrospectively identified since 1990. Their CT scans and medical histories were reviewed. The diagnosis was pathologically confirmed in all cases. Results: The CT scans revealed an abscess or a localized infected cyst in the deep soft tissues of the neck, with varying degrees of associated inflammatory change in the adjacent soft tissues. The diagnoses in these cases included 1 first branchial cleft cyst, 3 second branchial cleft cysts, 1 third branchial cleft cyst, 2 fourth branchial cleft cysts, 2 infected lymphangiomas, 2 thyroglossal duct cysts, and 1 cervical thymic cyst. Conclusions: Most deep neck infections are the result of suppurative adenitis. The location of the primary focus is usually from the mucosa of the upper aerodigestive tract or from an odontogenic source. Less common causes are perforations due to a foreign body, thrombophlebitis of the internal jugular vein, or osteomyelitis of the spine. Recurrences in these situations are unusual. Less commonly, congenital lesions can present as deep neck infections, and recurrences are common. Our cases suggest that the recurrence of a deep neck infection should alert the physician to the possibility of an underlying congenital lesion and that CT is helpful in the early recognition of these lesions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1379-1382
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes


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