Thyroglossal Duct Cyst



  • Cyst composed of epithelial remnants of the thyroglossal tract as it descends from foramen cecum at tongue base to the lower neck
  • Midline neck mass at the level of the thyrohyoid membrane, closely associated with the hyoid bone, within 2 cm of the midline
  • Often asymptomatic midline neck mass but can become infected and rapidly increase in size
  • Majority are located between thyroid and hyoid, followed by suprahyoid and then suprasternal, and finally intralingual being the rarest location.
  • System(s) affected: endocrine; metabolic; skin; exocrine


Most common form of congenital midline cyst in the neck, yet rare to present clinically in neonatal period


  • Majority of cases present in patients <30 years old.
  • Predominant sex: male = female

Occurs in up to 7% of population

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Cystic expansion of a remnant of the thyroglossal duct tract
  • Incomplete closure of the thyroglossal duct during gestation
  • Persistence of the epithelial tract, the thyroglossal duct, during the descent of the thyroid from the foramen cecum to its final position in the anterior neck
  • The thyroglossal duct tract usually atrophies and disappears by the 8th to 10th week of gestation.
  • Portions of the tract and remnants of thyroid tissue associated with it may persist at any point between the tongue and the thyroid.
  • Failure of the thyroglossal duct to atrophy and involute after descent of the thyroid in the 4th to 7th week of gestation
  • Hypothesis: lymphoid tissue associated with the tract hypertrophies at the time of a regional infection, thereby occluding the tract with resulting cyst formation


  • Usually sporadic; if familial, autosomal dominant is most common mode of inheritance.
  • Familial occurrence is extremely rare.

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • History of a recent upper respiratory tract infection (URI)
  • Ectopic thyroid tissue found in almost half of cysts and rarely associated with ectopic thyroid gland
  • Thyroid carcinoma (rare)

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