Introduction to Bronchial Cyst

Bronchial cyst is defined by the medical dictionary as “A usually spherical cyst, arising as an embryonic out-pouching of the foregut or trachea. It is generally found in the mediastinum or lung and is usually asymptomatic unless it becomes infected.”  It is useful to know that a cyst is described in medical terms as a closed sac that develops abnormally in some bodily structures with a distinct membrane and it usually contains fluids, air or semi-solid material. In essence a cyst is a useless growth in the body and can be ignored if it is not in a strategic location. It can become a potential problem if it causes changes in the arrangement of internal organs or if it becomes infected. Cysts in general do not cause pain.

Bronchial cyst, which is also referred to as bronchogenic cyst, is seen in different age groups from infants through adults. Since it is a condition that exists at birth it should be accurately referred to as congenital bronchogenic or bronchial cyst. Doctors have said that although the bronchial cysts are asymptomatic, they can potentially be life threatening as they can lead to compression, hemorrhage, rupture or infection.  It is considered particularly worrisome in children because the cyst can produce pressure in organs pressed close together in a small space. Although it does appear at birth, many patients do not show any signs of it until well into their adult life. So a cyst formed before birth can become a problem many years later.

The common and easily recognized symptom of bronchial cyst is persistent cough. Other reported symptoms include compression of neighboring body structures.  Over inflation of the lung and bronchus compression are among the issues that arise because of crowding of adjacent areas. Children with bronchogenic cysts often exhibit signs of respiratory distress. There may be partial obstruction of the trachea or bronchus which can cause emphysema and in some cases it leads parents and doctors to worry about asthma. Sometimes there is a developing communication between the cyst and the airway and these can lead to medical conditions known as adenocarcinoma and rhabdomyosarcoma. Bronchial cysts located in the abdomen can become infected and also create compression in the region. Hemorrhaging has been reported in some cases. Other problems associated with cysts in general such as rupturing and infection may happen in the case of bronchial cyst also. This may manifest itself in other ways that such as pain or fluid discharge. The symptoms tend to develop at an accelerated pace in infants and when it appears in adults it is usually slower.

There is no study that shows a perceptible influence of gender on the frequency of the problem or its rate of progression. Radiology is useful in identifying the problem usually. Antenatal ultrasonography is used to find the cysts in infants and chest radiography and computed tomography (CT) works for adults. The cysts are usually clearly defined in such images and diagnosis is usually straight-forward.

Once the problem is identified as bronchial cyst, the doctor will most likely recommend surgery. Thoracic surgery with a complete or subtotal resection of the cyst seems the most effective treatment for a cyst that has started pressing up against other organs. Surgeons may opt for open surgery or thoracoscopy depending on the health conditions of the patient. Open surgery involves cutting open the patient and thoracoscopy is a less invasive procedure using laser.

Bronchial cyst by definition is a problem from birth and if it is exacerbated in some way and becomes a problem for an adult it is likely that the situation has to be handled in a hurry. This can be stressful for the patient and the patient’s family but there is reassurance in knowing that doctors see the problem as eminently treatable. It is a well-researched field of medicine so there is enough information and the right technology to respond swiftly and effectively to complication arising from bronchial cysts.




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