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Original Article
December 1999

Recurrence of a Deep Neck Infection: A Clinical Indication of an Underlying Congenital Lesion

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Radiology (Drs Nusbaum and Som) and Otolaryngology (Drs Som, Rothschild, and Shugar), Mount Sinai School of Medicine, City University of New York, New York, NY.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1999;125(12):1379-1382. doi:10.1001/archotol.125.12.1379
Abstract

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.

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