Branchial Cleft Cyst, One Year Later


It's been a little over a year since my branchial cleft cyst surgery, and things have gotten back to normal. Recently though I have had quite a few questions about my cyst, the surgery and the aftermath of everything. So I thought I would do a Q&A type post to go over some things that maybe someone with this same cyst would want to know.

Branchial Cleft Cyst Surgery Q&A

How did you find out what it was?

Like I sort of mentioned in my previous posts, there was a lot to do to actually figure out what my cyst was. I had to go to my primary care doctor 3 times. During that time, I had to go for blood work and an MRI. Finally they sent me to MD Anderson Hospital, which is primarily a cancer center, talk about panic attacks! My surgeon and her resident sent me for a biopsy. During the biopsy they did a fine needle aspiration, and drained some of the liquid from the cyst to test it. I went to 4 appointments with my surgeon and X-rays of my chest (thanks to previously having killer pneumonia) before they scheduled the actual surgery. After the biopsy though, they were 100 percent sure that it was a branchial cleft cyst. After surgery they still sent the cyst to Pathology to make sure that it was not cancerous, which is pretty standard.

What is the procedure for a branchial cleft cyst like? Is it safe?

Most procedures are out patient with branchial cleft cysts. With mine, it was an inpatient because of the size, but it had it been a bit smaller, it would have been outpatient. The procedure itself is fairly simple, they make a small incision, remove the cyst, and then send it off to pathology just in case. They made the incision in the crease line of my neck, so that it wouldn't be as noticeable later on, and I had a drain placed for the next week to prevent fluid build up.

But with all surgeries, there are risks. They do have to put you under anesthesia which also always poses a risk. But if you follow instructions and are really upfront with all of the nurses and Doctors it should be pretty smooth sailing.

How big was your incision?

I cannot emphasize this enough, but my cyst was literally the size of a tennis ball, sitting on my neck. So my incision was worst case scenario. It ended up being a good 5+ inches long and spanned a good portion of the side of my neck. Most are really only 2 inches though.

How long was your recovery time?

Recovery time is roughly 2 weeks. It takes about 5 days before they take out the drain, so you really feel kinda blah until then. Once they took the drain out though, and I took a really, really good shower I was feeling more normal than I had in months. I secretly went back to work one week after, but I worked from home. And 3 days after surgery I actually went to Target with my mom. The overall recovery time is going to depend on your body though and how quickly you heal.

Was there any damage/side effects of having the surgery?

Yes, there were things that effected me after the surgery. But none of those things were worst case scenario. I did have minor nerve damage to right side of my face and tongue, which affected my speech for 2-3 months. I also had some minor nerve damage to the right side of my arm and shoulder. Sometimes I have a few twinges or moments where it feels like they are having problems. My arm will go weak or I will get sharp pains through a certain portion of my neck, but they subside and get better the more I work out. My facial problems eventually went away completely, those just needed time.


Have any more questions or need more clarification? Just shoot me an email and ask! I was able to calm my nerves thanks to a blogger who wrote about her experiences, hopefully this does the same for you.