Branchial remnant cysts of mature and juvenile horses

R. D. Nolen-Walston, E. J. Parente, John E Madigan, F. David, S. E. Knafo, J. B. Engiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This clinical report describes 8 cases of branchial remnant cysts (BRC) in the horse. The horses presented with bimodal age distribution, with 5 cases in mature horses (age 8-21 years) and 3 in foals (age 1, 6 and 10 months). Mature cases presented for dysphagia or intermittent oesophageal obstruction (2/5), and retropharyngeal swelling (3/5), whereas respiratory stridor and visible mass were presenting complaints in the foals. Presence of a right-sided (5/8) or dorsally located (2/8) palpable retropharyngeal mass of 3-35 cm diameter was noted clinically; one left-sided mass was identified as an incidental finding at necropsy. Ultrasonography typically revealed a thick-walled cyst containing hypoechoic fluid with dependent hyperechoic masses consistent with blood clots. Radiographs and upper airway endoscopy were also consistent with a retropharyngeal mass. Fluid cytology revealed chronic haemorrhage in 6/8 cases, and squamous epithelial cells in one case. Histopathology in all cases demonstrated an epithelium-lined cyst with no smooth muscle or thyroid tissue. Two cases was subjected to euthanasia; one due to concurrent laryngeal anomalies and one due to financial constraints. The remaining 5 cases were treated via surgical excision. Post operatively, right laryngeal hemiplegia was observed in 4/5 cases. All previous reports of BRC in the horse have described juvenile individuals. Brachial remnant cyst should be considered a differential diagnosis for mature horses with masses of the throatlatch area and can be definitively diagnosed by the presence of squamous epithelium in aspirated fluid or by histopathology of the excised mass. Right recurrent laryngeal nerve damage is a common complication of surgery. 2009 EVJ Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)918-923
Number of pages6
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Cervical cyst
  • Congenital anomaly
  • Horse
  • Lymphoepithelial
  • Neural crest
  • Parotid
  • Thyroglossal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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