Ectopic thymus presenting as a retropharyngeal mass: Surgical approach

January 24, 2013
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Cervical ectopic thymus is a rare cause of solid neck masses in children. Most children are asymptomatic, but some may present with a palpable neck mass, with or without compressive symptoms. Cervical ectopic thymus is often discovered incidentally and mistaken for an infection or neoplasm. We present the case of an infant with retropharyngeal ectopic thymus and describe our intraoral surgical approach.


Cervical ectopic thymus has been reported in both pediatric surgery and otolaryngology literature as a rare cause of neck mass in children.1 Thymic remnants may be cystic or solid, with solid masses making up only 10% of ectopic thymic masses.1 As a derivative of the third pharyngeal pouch, thymic remnants may occur at any point along the path of descent of the thymus into the mediastinum during embryologic development.

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