What is a Vallecular Cyst?

Pre-operative view of a vallecular cyst


Initial drainage of cyst fluid

Vallecular cyst is the name of specific type of cystic fullness in the area between the very back of the tongue (base of tongue), and the epiglottis. This area of the body is the empty space that is called the vallecula. Typically, there is quite a bit of lymphoid tissue in this location, similar to that found in the tonsils.

Occasionally, a cystic fullness is found in this area. With passage of time, the cyst might increase in size. There is usually no associated pain. However, if the cyst is of a certain size, eventually the patient might feel a sensation of a ball in the throat as well as occasional problems with swallowing. In severe cases, this may also give the patient symptoms of shortness of breath due to lack of adequate breathing passages around it.

Vallecular cysts are usually benign in pathology, and expose no immediate danger from a cancer prospective. However, with the passage of time, an increase in the size of the cyst might give the patient more symptoms.

The treatment for vallecular cyst is surgical. This is usually done with the patient under general anesthesia. The cyst is visualized using microscopic instruments. Smaller cysts could be removed entirely, and larger cysts which are felt to be embedded within the tissues of the tongue, are usually drained and marsupialized (the inside of the cyst is left exposed to the outside area). This is a relatively benign procedure, and the patients can go home the same day. Most patients resume physical activities immediately, and they may need to refrain from crunchy foods for few days.

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