Second branchial cleft fistula/sinus tract endoscopy: a novel intraoperative technique assisting complete surgical resection



Second branchial cleft (BC) sinus/fistula anomalies usually present in children. Their definitive management requires complete tract surgical excision, which necessities accurate extension assessment. Our aim is to propose and describe a novel intraoperative endoscopic technique that can help in evaluating the exact BC anomaly tract extension and overcome disadvantages of currently used methods including imaging and intraoperative methylene blue tract injection.


The innovative intraoperative endoscopic technique involves performing BC sinus/fistula tract intraluminal endoscopy utilizing miniature 1.3 or 1.6 mm all-in-one semi-rigid endoscopes as well as other accessory equipment currently available and used for sialendoscopy for delineation of exact tract extension followed by a complete standard surgical excision tailored to and assisted by the endoscopic procedure.


This novel endoscopic technique was used successfully in five children (age range 8–16 years) presenting with unilateral or bilateral congenital second BC discharging fistula/sinus tracts in the neck. Intraoperative endoscopic assessment took 10–15 min and confirmed the exact tract extension and nature in all patients without complications. Five fistulas and two sinuses were identified and completely surgically resected. No recurrence has been observed after a median follow-up of 29 (range 13–45) months.


Intraoperative second BC fistula/sinus tract endoscopy could help in accurately assessing anomaly extension, thereby assisting in complete surgical excision. This innovative novel endoscopic technique could avoid disadvantages of currently used methods, especially regarding radiation exposure required for imaging children in whom this anomaly usually presents.

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Mohamed Khaled Taha (Resident, Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University) for his assistance in editing the supplementary, online included, surgical technique video.


The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Correspondence to Emad Ahmed Magdy.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee, and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from parents or legal guardians of children patients included in the study.

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Online resource 1 Video demonstrating details of second BC sinus/fistula intraluminal endoscopy for intraoperative assessment of tract extension (MP4 94229 kb)

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Magdy, E.A., Hamza, A., Youssef, A. et al. Second branchial cleft fistula/sinus tract endoscopy: a novel intraoperative technique assisting complete surgical resection. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 278, 833–838 (2021).

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  • Second branchial cleft anomalies
  • Branchial fistula surgery
  • Branchial sinus surgery
  • Endoscopic assessment
  • Intraoperative tract endoscopy
  • Endoscopic-assisted surgery